boss texts constantly and blows up if I don’t respond immediately, boss refers to my girlfriend as my “roommate,” and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My boss texts me constantly and blows up if I don’t respond immediately

My boss likes to text me. A lot. At all hours and even on the weekends. Which normally I would be find with, but she expects a fast response when she texts, justifying it by saying that when she texts, it is because our HQ needs the information quickly and therefore we have to respond. However, some of her messages come in at really odd hours (it is 10 p.m. now and I’ve just received another text from her). She has also made a lot of fuss about how I (and my colleagues) don’t respond to text messages that concern work ASAP and she does it in a very harsh manner with lots of caps in her text messages. And she yells at us, a lot.

I work in the education line. I hardly check my phone unless it is a break time because a second away from watching out for the children may mean someone could get hurt or in trouble. I’ve been really fed up over her insistence that we respond ASAP and today I responded with a message to kindly note that if I was at home, I would not have my phone on hand nor would I respond that quickly, to which I received a scathing message about how I kept on ignoring my messages and it has happened several times, and that she would take it into consideration during our appraisals. Her first text was at 7:46 a.m., and her blow up text was at 7:53 a.m. Uhm? A lot of texts aren’t exactly time-sensitive (e.g. updating information on an internal server system). How do I tell her to stop doing this?

It sounds like you’ve tried, and she’s ignoring you because she’s an unreasonable jerk. I mean, really, blowing up at you because you didn’t respond to an early-morning text within seven minutes? She’s delusional to think that’s reasonable or practical, and she’s power-mad.

You could try again, I suppose, but I don’t have a lot of faith in her ability to see reason. But if you want to try, you could say this: “I’ve noticed that you get upset if I don’t respond to texts right away on the weekends, in the evenings, and early in the morning. Realistically, I’m not going to always be able to respond immediately — I might be sleeping or in the shower or cooking dinner or at a movie, or any of the other things we all do outside of work hours. I will certainly respond once I see the message, but when it’s not work hours, very often that won’t be immediate. I don’t know how to respond when you’re frustrated by that. The alternative would be me never sleeping or having down time away from my phone. I want to make sure we’re on the same page about that going forward, so that you’re not expecting immediate responses when I’m not working.”

You might have more luck getting through if you gather a group of coworkers and say this to her as a group. You also might have more luck going over her head if she doesn’t budge.

But are you sure you want to stay in this job? She sounds deranged.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. My boss refers to my girlfriend as my “roommate”

I’m a lesbian. Everyone at my job knows that I’m a lesbian. When my boss talks to me or anyone else about my girlfriend, she always calls her my roommate. She refuses to refer to my girlfriend as my girlfriend. What should I do or is there anything I can do? I feel like this is extremely disrespectful and offensive.

Yes, it is. Presumably she’s not calling people’s opposite-sex partners their “roommates,” and presumably she would not be thrilled to have her own partner referred to as her roommate.

You could try directly asking her to stop — as in, “I’ve noticed you refer to Jane as my roommate. She’s my girlfriend, so I’d appreciate you not calling her a roommate, which is a different type of relationship altogether. I’d prefer you call her my girlfriend or my partner.”

It might be useful to find out first if you live in a state that makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against LGBTQ employees (about half do; federal law does not). If you live in a state that does protect you, that might give you some peace of mind being assertive with your boss, who is being an ass.

3. How long should you have to wait to hear about a raise?

I had never asked for a raise before, as we generally get merit increases at the beginning of each year. However, the previous one I got was rather small and I took on a lot of new responsibilities during the year. I got great feedback from my boss and finally decided to ask for a raise. I think I handled the request well, and he responded favorably and said he would see what had to be done.

The entire process dragged out over two months and the answer finally came back as a no. It turns out I am too close to the top end of the range and they couldn’t justify giving me more money.

I’m fine with that answer. It makes sense. And if they responded within a week or two, I would have thought, well at least I made the effort and I know the reason why. But the dragging it out was really demoralizing. Several months later, I am still depressed about it. Like I don’t matter enough that they could have handled this better. What’s a usual amount of time to wait and am I being overly sensitive?

Oh my goodness, do not be demoralized by this. Ideally in this situation a manager will be able to get back to you within a couple of weeks, but it’s not uncommon for it to take as long as it did here. Sometimes that’s because budgets need to be looked at, which can have a domino effect on other people who need to be consulted; sometimes it’s because your boss needs to consult with HR, and they have more time-sensitive stuff they need to field first; sometimes it’s because five different people need to be consulted or sign off; sometimes it’s because stuff can just be slow. Hell, in this case, it’s possible that your boss originally was told no and has been trying to get an exception to the range made, which could definitely take this much time, especially when you throw in the fact that he and everyone else involved have other stuff going on too.

Two months isn’t ideal, certainly. But it’s not a slap in the face.

4. HR manager recommended a hotel bar to me

Is it okay for a HR manager to tell an employee via email, work email, that the hotel they recommend for employee to stay at for a business conference for company has a bar that is really good and put LOL in the email too?

Sure. HR people are humans too. They’re not advocating you get trashed and pass out in the hotel hallway; they’re telling you there’s a good bar there, which is a perfectly fine bit of information for one adult to share with another adult. It’s a detail about the hotel, which can you take or leave as you see fit, just like if they mentioned there was a good gym there or great room service.

5. Including the reason for leaving each job on your resume

I’m currently hiring and I ran across a resume that has the new-to-me process of including why the applicant left various positions as a part of the resume (e.g. left after company downsized, firm was dissolved, company relocated, etc.). These notes aren’t just on tenures of less than two years, but on positions of five years or more. It strikes me as a clever way to address a common question of every hiring manager, and the only thing that seems odd is that this particular applicant included it on some positions, but not others (of course, I’m now wondering about those!). But, assuming it was implemented throughout, what is your take on this practice?

I wouldn’t recommend it as a matter of course for everyone, but there are some cases where it makes sense. Specifically, if you have a series of short-ish stays that were not due to you constantly quitting but rather were due to things like layoffs or relocations, it can make sense to include that so that you don’t look like a job hopper. But I’d only do it in that context, not otherwise.

{ 553 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, the “LOL” is probably a little grating (it sounds like you don’t have an independent or friendly relationship with the HR manager), but not inherently objectionable or wrong. Is there something else going on that’s bothering you about HR? I ask because your reaction reads to me as a little stiff… but it could also just be a difference regarding work-style preferences (hence asking).

    1. Mookie*

      I tend to find lols and lmaos a little bizarre sometimes in certain work correspondence (although lately I am charmed by l337 speak, simply because it’s become old-fogeyish and has mellowed with age) and I absolutely hate pronouncing, even in my inner monologue, most acronyms. My solution has always been to read lol as “loll,” lmao as “luh-mao,” roflmao as “rawfle-luh-mao” and so forth, which cuts down on the irritation considerably and allows me respite from having to imagine my interlocutor literally laughing out loud (reader: they are not laughing out loud nor are they rolling on the floor, this is not ‘Nam, there are rules, &c).

        1. Lora*

          I LOL’ed and now my employees are looking at me like I’m a weirdo. I can’t believe that movie is 20 years old next year…I saw it in the theater!

      1. Nolan*

        Lol, and its various offspring, is starting to become a word in its own right. I definitely read it as one in my head, and if I’m reading a text to someone, I’ll pronounce it that way as well. Then there’s the sarcastic response of “LAWL” that can be applied to things that were supposed to be funny but aren’t. And the statement that you’re doing something just “for the lulz”. Yay language!

        1. Persephone Mulberry*

          I am trying to break my almost-10-year-old of his habit of verbalizing LOL as “loll” when he hears something funny in a movie or a conversation or whatever. I use written LOL all the time, but for some reason I find hearing it really grating.

      2. ZuKeeper*

        I used to raid in World of Warcraft with someone who actually said, “Loll,” instead of just laughing. It used to make me crazy. If someone says something funny, just laugh. I try not to use lol at all now, I’d rather type “haha”, even if that’s just as bad, really. But lol just bugs me, purely because of that one person.

        1. Parenthetically*

          My students typically say “lol” when they mean “this is mildly funny but didn’t actually make me laugh” or “I’m expressing ironic amusement,” in basically the same way an adult would say “oh har har” or “ha ha, very funny” instead of laughing. It’s just a different shorthand.

          1. KatiePie*

            I think I’m old at heart for a 33-year-old. I drew the line years ago and refused to ever use “LOL” being that I wasn’t actually laughing out loud. I use “hahaha” most of the time.

          2. Ri*

            Yep, I’m 23 and this is how my friend group tend to use ‘lol’ verbally. Like, ‘They asked me to stay late at work to sit in on a conference call that didn’t even happen, lol. Great use of my night.’ It never takes the place of an actual laugh!

      3. Babs*

        My car reads text messages on command. I got a text with Lol and the car voice said “Laughing out loud” I spit coffee on my windshield. Are you kidding me Honda actually programmed it to read these things. I haven’t tested LMAO but I can’t picture the stoic Honda lady saying A$$.

    2. Lady Julian*

      If this info about the bar were communicated in person, it’d be accompanied by a wink or a nudge, and I took the LOL to be the digital version of that. While I’m not a huge fan of text speak, I find it kind of humanizing here.

    3. AthenaC*

      I wouldn’t want to see LOL in an email except at the end of a long-ish informal exchange with someone I’m relatively close with (coworker-close, if that makes sense), and accompanied by a smiley face.

      Over IM – different story. Text speak and emojis all day.

      Also, in my line of work, it’s understood that a lot of us drink. So “a good bar” would generally be understood to be useful information. But if, say, I worked for Muslim- or Mormon-based not-for-profit, the “good bar” comment would be borderline offensive (unless they were specifically addressing ME and they know I’m a Catholic who does drink).

      TL/DR: It all depends on the context of the work environment and how well you know the HR person.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        Wait, why would it be offensive if the Muslim/Mormon based company recommended a bar to you?

        1. fposte*

          She said it *wouldn’t* be offensive if it was recommended to her. I read her concern as somebody in a faith-based organization where that faith is teetotal making a cultural misstep by recommending a good bar to the adherents.

          1. AthenaC*

            And on the other side of the coin, Mormons in my line of work tend to take a good bar recommendation with a smile, chuckle, and an “I’ll keep that in mind” because they know that most people drink.

            1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

              Yeah, my reply to that would be “Great! I love me a good Shirley Temple.”

              (I do. They’re delicious.)

              1. Anna*

                And since most bars think Shirley Temples are just 7-Up and a lot of grenadine, finding a place that can make a good one is probably gold.

                1. A*

                  Find a place that makes its own grenadine.
                  It’s still going to be a too-sweet, disgusting thing, but at least it will have some class.

                  BTW, How to Make Your Own Grenadine:
                  – Half cup unsweetened pomegranate juice
                  – Half cup sugar
                  – Dissolve on the stove, reduce it a little
                  – Chill

              2. Tableau Wizard*

                My go to at a Happy Hour! I’m just glad that I finally passed the age where people looked at me with their head cocked, thinking to themselves, “Wait, is she not 21 yet?”

            2. Rose*

              I don’t drink much but I still go to bars for dates and business meetings. They have snacks and people can meet there. Anything is better than sitting in my hotel room all night.

    4. Bwmn*

      While I understand the professional issues that some have with text speak in work emails – I’ve found that those who often use lol or emojis are colleagues who have received notes that their emails are too brusk. So in a case where asks “I know it’s the end of the day, but I need these teapot invoices pulled ASAP – can that be done?” – for someone who’s natural email response might be “yes” or “no problem”, in an office where that reads too abrupt, replying “no problem :)” is an approach I’ve seen done. Especially among some of my colleagues where English is their second language.

      I still get that some do no like that kind of communication in work emails – particularly the text speak – but I’ve often found their use to have that intention rather than the intention of being overly familiar.

      1. kb*

        I’ve seen smileys , lol, and text speak used the same way. I’m not a huge fan, but I’ve definitely used them to convey “I’m not mad– this email sounds terse, but I don’t want to add more words and muddy the point.”
        I’ve also seen lol being used not to indicate someone is laughing out loud, but functioning as a hedge.

        1. Bwmn*

          Agreed – and while “lol” does feel informal, imagine had that been replaced with something like “teehee”. While lol is definitely new in terms of communication, I would argue that is far more formal because it has become so standard in communication. While using “lol” may feel informal – using something like “teehee” would be both informal and unusual. Provided the email communication is an informal internal context, I can be fairly certain that a smiley face or lol does have a standard basis for understanding rather than other kinds of “I’m joking/in a good mood/expressing levity” terms.

        2. Anonygoose*

          I work at a university, and one of the faculty uses Frowny Face emojis to his students.
          As in “I am very disappointed in the results from the last exam. :-( ”
          For some reason that is so much worse than smiley faces to me…

          1. fposte*

            My family disciplined via frowny face (handwritten, not texted), so I would absolutely reel at getting that on a paper.

            1. LBK*

              Wait, so like…if you did something bad, your mom would hand you a Post-It with a :( drawn on it, and that would be your punishment? I must be misunderstanding…

              1. fposte*

                Not quite that weird :-).

                We were mostly single-parented, with kid comings and goings and bedtimes that didn’t track with the adults, so we got left notes a lot, especially as we got older. The traditional signature was a smiley face. If your note was signed with a frowny face, that was absolutely crushing. (We were very biddable children.)

                1. Babs*

                  The note thing I can relate to. My dad would leave to do lists taped to each of us kids’ doors every morning. Whether he was home or not. The notes were extremely detailed, extremely organized, and extremely neat. Like perfect handwritten letters scrolled on a blank paper lined up perfectly (looked like he used a ruler but I knew he didn’t, he was an Engineer). Every.damn.morning.

                  By about age 6, I rebelled, I would go find him, bounce straight into his arms and give him a huge hug and kiss and say “Good morning! Now what are we going to do today?!” as though I hadn’t seen “THE LIST.”

                  It took me years to get over being grumpy with co-workers leaving me lists or leaving things on my desk. From my point of view I would much rather the face to face experience and thought the list was rude. I’m over it now but it’s been a long 30+ years.

          2. kb*

            I think the frown is less common/ generally less necessary because most of the time people can tell when news is bad, so it’s just an additional emphasis on the writer’s disappointment. But I personally found something so comical about smileys or frowny faces with noses

            1. tigerlily*

              Yeah, I would use the frowny face for something disappointing, but not actually bad news. Like if a coworker and I were in charge of setting of the breakfast for our training next week and I was letting her know the doughnut place wouldn’t be open in time. But not to accompany an email to a coworker saying they actually screwed something up. That would be like the time there was a shooting at the university in the city I was living in and my mom texted me to make sure I was okay and included a gun emoji. There’s a time and place for emojis, that was not one of them.

              1. kb*

                Oh goodness, my mom also struggles with emojis. She most frequently messes up the “crying laughing” and “crying with sadness” emojis, but I think that’s pretty common. The most awkward was when she got really into maki bf recipes with eggplant and texting people about them D:

              2. Nolan*

                Hahaha, this just reminded me of a weird thing I do, no idea where I picked it up. If someone gives me disappointing news, like they lost a trinket, or can’t make trivia, etc. I’ll sometimes respond with “sad face”. Like, I don’t use the emoji, I say or type the words “sad face” to convey my mild disappointment. Even if I’m with the person who delivered the news.

          3. Lightly-chewed Jimmy*

            see, that’s sad face to me! frowny face would be >:( (because it’s got little frown lines).

          4. Rose*

            Well smileys make sense because they’re helping convey tone when it’s not clear. Sometimes emails that are just factual or efficient can sound annoyed/angry. But people can usually tell when you’re angry/annoyed/sad. You don’t need help with that. So I’d agree that :( is worse than :)

      2. Elizabeth H.*

        I agree, I think there are 2 categories of people who use them, people who are genuinely bubbly and outgoing (or who are writing in an informal context) AND people who are trying to avoid seeming overly brusque.

        This is actually making me reflect on how I come over via email. I am pretty quiet in real life at work (I try not to talk unless I have something to say and almost never instigate social chitchat) but I definitely write LONG via email and I always go back to edit out exclamation marks, effusiveness, over apologizing, extra words. So I wonder if people observe a difference between my in person and email personality. I do use smiley face in work email when there are other casual signifiers and if I’ve already had a bunch of back and forth with the person.

        If I were the HR person I would have used :) instead of LOL but different strokes for different folks.

    5. LBK*

      I just took it as the OP thinking that interacting with HR should be more formal. I can sort of see that perspective – you want to think of the department you rely on for serious matters like compensation, hiring/firing, EEOC/ADA compliance, etc as being staffed with serious people. But in the context of this interaction, I don’t think it’s a big issue, especially if the OP works at a smaller company with a culture of familiarity (eg the HR department is 3 people who sit down the hall from you, not some faceless group in another building that you never hear from unless you have an issue).

      1. Garrett*

        I can see you expecting the formality and thinking it’s weird if they say “You ADA claim has been denied, lol” but this is basically an informal interaction between 2 colleagues and not odd to me at all. HR are people too who have lives and act like most other people. I personally wouldn’t use LOL in a work email, but have used it when I’m Jabbering with someone and they make a joke.

      2. Tuesday*

        Me too. I think this is one of those things that could be added to the “misconceptions about work” post from today (or yesterday?) Your HR person is not a robot.

        That said, the HR person at my first office job was pretty robotic. We had company-wide customer service training at one point, and she shared a story about an experience she’d had when she went out to dinner with her husband and daughter. I remember being momentarily surprised that she had a family. She was just so, I dunno, professionally detached at work. It was jarring to imagine her with actual personal relationships. Obviously that’s silly, like when you’re a kid and think that your teacher lives at school. The HR person doesn’t just go in the closet and power down at the end of the day. Usually.

        Anyway, I can see where a bar recommendation would seem odd if your experience with HR was like mine had been at that first job. But it’s certainly not inappropriate, IMO.

        1. HRish Dude*

          Can confirm.

          Not a robot.

          Although that’s what a robot would say.

          LOL (which in HR-speak means LOOK OUT for LAYOFFS)

    6. The Rat-Catcher*

      My first thought was that there is some confusion over What HR Can and Cannot Do, which I guess must be a common problem based on how many letters we get on the subject here.

    7. SarcasticFringehead*

      I also wondered if there was something else happening. For instance, if I got that email from a coworker who would also be staying at the hotel for that event, and from whom I’d gotten uncomfortable vibes before, it might feel like they were inviting me out to the bar for some drinks (wink wink nudge nudge). I don’t mean to speculate on what’s happening in this specific instance – just that this is an example of something that is totally harmless in isolation, but combined with other factors could make someone very uncomfortable.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, my first, middle, and last reactions were the phrase “WTAF” repeated in my head at escalating volumes. Are you sure your boss isn’t a Gremlin? It sounds like when you let her near water she acts like a terror all night and into the pre-work morning. And she “yells a lot” at you and your coworkers? I’m having a hard time understanding why it makes sense to stay with this employer.

    That said, in addition to Alison’s script, there are two things you could try, although I don’t have faith that she’s reasonable enough to respond to these tactics. First, you could see if your coworkers are willing to band together to reject the “answerrrrrr meeeee nowwwww, tricksy hobbitses” approach to text-based communication. Perhaps a group rejection of the practice will make her realize she’s being ridiculous (although it could backfire very badly if she thinks you’re all banding together to be insubordinate). Second, you could ask her to really think about which texts are “emergencies” versus those that are urgent but lower priority, and then ask if she’s willing to make calls when something is a “true” emergency. The downsides of this approach is that you have to be willing to take a call, and she could end up being just as crazy about inappropriately timed phone calls. But part of me suspects she’s texting you because it’s easy for her and lets her be more intrusive than if she had to put in additional effort, so I wonder if increasing the cost (i.e., pain/inconvenience for her) would also tamp down the behavior.

    1. Drew*

      (although it could backfire very badly if she thinks you’re all banding together to be insubordinate)

      I guess, technically, that would be true, and with a boss this unreasonable I don’t expect she will stop to think “if my entire staff hates something, maybe I should rethink it.” But at the very least, you can hope that she won’t be able to single anyone out for retribution if she’s really looking for blood. I fear the downside might be that, since OP has already objected, Boss will point to her as the ringleader of this little mutiny regardless.

      It feels like maybe the solution is to start laying a paper trail. Send a quick email that says, “Boss, as we discussed earlier today, I have commitments outside of work that restrict my ability to reply to texts and emails immediately. During work hours, I will continue to reply as soon as I get a message, but outside of work hours that’s not something I can realistically promise. I trust you understand that my downtime is important to making me the best employee I can be.” If boss replies to this in the same divorced-from-reality manner as in the past, now you have documentation if you need to escalate.

      I wouldn’t open up the possibility of calls, not at all – a boss like this will see the offer as carte blanche to start calling at any and all hours AND expect OP to drop whatever is going on to pick up the phone. (“I don’t CARE how badly your baby needs changed!”) It seems like she’s be risking trading a small constant annoyance, texting, for a much larger one.

      1. Gadfly*

        I had a VP who, in response to a bunch of us objecting to our personal phone numbers being shared with everyone in the company (not just supervisors for after hour emergencies, EVERYONE.) and going to HR when she insisted, sent us an email explaining that we were​ all like NAZIS and then forbid us from ever taking breaks or lunches at the same time again.

            1. Jessesgirl72*

              Not the way I’d bet, since she obviously got a talking to when they all went to HR, and this was in retaliation to that.

          1. Gadfly*

            She framed it in such a way as to claim it was not retaliation while simultaneously making sure we knew it was. So HR backed her. We were rather shocked they had backed us to begin with, honestly.

      2. Colette*

        I don’t understand how the OP sending an email would provide meaningful documentation, nor do I understand why documentation would be necessary to escalate. People often suggest documenting here, but I think in most situations it makes things worse, because the person doing the documentation is presumably doing so because they expect some third party to come in, look at the documentation, and fix the problem. In most cases (including this one) they’d be better off talking to the person they are having an issue with and, if that fails, talking with thenprrson above them. Being able to provide emails with what they said isn’t going to add much value.

        1. sstabeler*

          the documentation is proof you’ve a) tried to fix the problem already and b) that you are telling the truth. As a rule of thumb, the burden of proof is on the complainant (that is, if it’s he-said she-said, they DO tend to believe the one complained about) since otherwise, people could force other employees to have to constantly prove they aren’t breaking the rules.

          1. Lance*

            All of this. If you’re reaching higher up without anything but just your word… well, good luck in a lot of cases, because then it can easily turn into a matter of ‘he said, she said’. Documentation, especially in the case of e-mails that really can’t be refuted, provides clear context and proof for your case.

            1. Spoonie*

              OP says she’s in the education line, which may mean that ATPE could be at play (or another similar organization). Based on incidents my mom has had, they have suggested documenting. At least as I recall — and weirdly this was also an instance involving administration. Thank all things holy she is now at a better-ish school — or at least one with better administration.

            2. Zombii*

              OP has documentation. That’s what the text chain is—the one where Boss texted at 7:46am, OP responded to text from Boss to say she can’t respond to texts immediately when not at work (despite responding to that text immediately but not answering with any useful information), then Boss freaked out on her at 7:53.

              The only issue I can see is if HR/Boss’s boss thinks it was weird for OP to immediately respond to Boss’s text with a PSA about how she can’t respond to that text immediately.

          2. Yorick*

            The text messages themselves are proof that this is happening. Even the “answerrrrr meeeeeee” reactions are happening via text.

            I guess I would advise OP to save the texts, so you can show them to whoever you complain about.

        2. Kyrielle*

          But in this case the statement is “if boss replies” – that is, there’s a chance you’ll get the boss to insist you must respond (nearly instantly) to text messages at all hours.

          THAT email could be valuable, because then it’s not just a he-said, she-said. What the boss said is *then* logged in that email.

          If the boss doesn’t reply, I agree, having sent the email is not terribly useful as documentation unless the boss tries to claim you never discussed it with her.

          1. Amber T*

            I’m sort of laughing at the idea of the boss not responding at all, then coming up with the excuse down the road “I didn’t see it, I was too busy texting.”

        3. Rose*

          Because when you go to your bosses boss saying “She has completely unrealistic exceptions, texts me at all hours of the day, and is aggressive when I don’t text back within 7 minutes” and your boss says “that’s extremely rare, only happened in a few emergencies, and she took hours to respond,” there’s a good chance your grand-boss sides with your boss and you go on both of their shit list at best.

          1. justsomeone*

            That’s what screenshots of text messages are for though. They’re all timestamped. She can share those with the grandboss and it should be pretty damning evidence.

      3. Natalie*

        General question for documentation advocates: so you recommend this because it’s something you’ve done successfully, or just because it’s common sense?

        I’m having a hard time envisioning a workplace where upper management is simultaneously so unreasonable that they won’t do anything without reams of documentation, but also reasonable enough to be swayed by said documentation. People who rules-lawyer, in my experience, will argue with pretty clear evidence just as easily as with anything else.

        I suppose in a union environment or similar where you might have some kind of tribunal, but that isn’t that common these days.

        1. sstabeler*

          the idea is so that you have more than just your word backing up what you say. it’s not likely to convince your boss they are behaving unreasonably, but it could be useful if you need to bring in their boss and/or HR.

          1. Natalie*

            I understand the theory behind it. I’m asking if anyone has actually been in a situation where the tactic actually achieved the theorized results. That is, the documentation changed the outcome somehow.

            1. Lead, Follow or Get Outta the Way!*

              Yes, documentation has been helpful in several instances. Especially when you have a client or colleague that complains that you didn’t send X information, if it’s in email form you know have the documentation that shows when you sent it. It’s always good to have documentation to CYA, and depending on your job and/or industry this may be routine or SOP.

              1. Natalie*

                if it’s in email form you know have the documentation that shows when you sent it

                Does that actually *do* anything besides make you feel better? Does the client become un-mad, and if so, what’s up with them that they wouldn’t just take your word for it?

                Also, I think there’s a fundamental difference between being adversarial with any third party (client, vendor, etc) and your own boss, who you work with every day and has a lot of control over your work life.

                I guess I understand keeping it for your own piece of mind, but once people start heavy documentation as a CYA, it seems to become it’s own goal that distracts from actually solving the problem, whether by managing up or just getting the hell out of Dodge. My old bosses ended up in this trap – they spent so much time printing every single email to “cover their ass”, and yet anytime there was some kind of disagreement from their boss those emails never helped them. Frankly, the documentation probably hurt, because our jackass big boss didn’t like to be proved wrong, so he would just double down on his jackassery.

                1. Kyrielle*

                  When I have had a client say “Kyrielle never told me that!” my boss, yes, absolutely, was swayed by my ability to point to an email in my Sent folder the week earlier as proof that I did send it. Boss addressed it with the client as something to discuss with their IT if there was a glitch, and re-provided the email…but also wasn’t upset with me and knew I had done my part.

                  Is it going to change the client’s mind? Nope, almost certainly not. But it may – and in my experience can – affect a third party’s view of the situation, and when that third party has authority (in my example, my boss; for OP, HR or boss’s boss), that can matter.

                2. A. Non*

                  It’s not really about “un-mad”ing the client. It’s about showing that you have completed your own responsibilities. I gather from your comments that you’ve never been in a really dysfunctional workplace, and that’s good! But just because you’ve never experienced it, or have never experienced a situation where documentation has saved you or someone else, please don’t discount it.

                3. Natalie*

                  @ A.Non, I actually have been in a deeply dysfunctional workplace where documenting was it’s own art form. After some changes at the top (due to crazier people quitting, not being forced out) we threw out about 6 large filing cabinets worth of useless paper, including every. single. out of office email my main boss had ever received from her boss. I heard the phrase “cover your ass” a lot at that job. I never saw any of that paper provide effective cover.

                  Anywhoo, as I said downthread I don’t discount documentation generally, but the way it’s sometimes recommended here seems to be as a be-all-end-all.

                4. Mimi Monkey*

                  Documentation saved me this morning. A client emailed my boss, copying me on the email, saying they had asked me to change something for them and that I didn’t do it. Because I’m particular about my documentation, I was able to show my boss the email where the client had asked me other questions but never mentioned any change. I also provided him my email that said “Let me know if you have any changes” and the client’s response of “No changes, it’s good”.

                  If I didn’t have this documentation I could have been written up because my boss would have believed the client.

                5. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I think, though, that Natalie isn’t talking about documentation like “see, here are the emails where the client approved this,” but rather about when people say “write down your boss’s instances of bad behavior.” That’s a different kind of thing.

                6. Cait*

                  I have “documented” all interactions with a specific student before because I had expressed to my boss that there was problem X and I suspected this person was going to file a grade complaint, at the very least, so my boss recommended writing down notes after he came to my office and photocopying the feedback I gave on his work, just in case he did attempt to dispute either his grade or anything else. I passed it on to my boss later (nothing materialized in my case) but she said the info ended up useful a year later when the same student tried to file a complaint against another teacher, and we now had a record of a pattern of his behavior that didn’t solve the other teacher’s problem but did help a bit. So, yeah, it was for my peace of mind but also helped someone else.

            2. Marie*

              I think I can give an example. My boss and grandboss retaliated after an internal whistle blower incident, trying to claim that I was deviating from my schedule without permission. Multiple times, despite me having written proof that they approved the deviations (to go to doctor’s appointments for a chronic medical condition), and went as far as writing me up. And they ordered me to stop communicating by email when I showed them their emails showing that they’d approved my schedule. But when I showed all of that to HR, they actually made the managers knock it off and forced them to solve the problem I’d spoken up about in the first place, which I’m pretty sure would never have happened if I hadn’t had a solid paper trail. This is a very dysfunctional place that doesn’t treat employees well, so I think that the fact that I had enough documentation for a potential lawsuit was the only reason they came down on my side.

            3. Myrin*

              I remember several comments by people on here (over time, not pertaining to one single thread) who talked about having been in such a situation or at least having observed it in their workplace. Very helpful, I know, but I can’t for the life of me remember any specifics.

              I totally get and agree with your above point but I do think that it depends somewhat on the situation. If a boss is remote or just doesn’t directly work with someone but only with their manager they might well trust the manager’s word that something is wrong with the “underling”‘s work without being specifically unreasonable. The boss might only fully understand the situation because of being shown some documentation, such as directions from the manager in writing.

              I also think it often gets recommended just so that you yourself have something to hold on to. We read quite often about people who face such egregious behaviour every day that in the end, it just feels like some vague cloud of “everything is always terrible”. A boss might hear Dilberta’s complaint of “Fluffernella always talks harshly to me” and think that “always” must be hyperbole because that’s how we roll as people, but if Dilberta can say “Yesterday, Fluffernella called me a stupid “=§%/=”!% three times and the day before that, she…”, the boss in some way can’t handwave it away. Only that she could still do that, of course, which is where my agreement with your original point comes in. If they’re really unreasonable, they might just say Dilberta made that list up which means her documentation didn’t help her at all. It really depends on multiple factors, I’d say.

              1. Natalie*

                I also think it often gets recommended just so that you yourself have something to hold on to. We read quite often about people who face such egregious behaviour every day that in the end, it just feels like some vague cloud of “everything is always terrible”.

                Oh, I totally agree that this is a benefit.

                I suppose it’s that people seem to treat it like a silver bullet, as though the Work Judge is going to bang their gavel and all problems will be solved because they have a folder of printed out emails. I’m guess I’m inclined to believe that it a) might be useful, b) probably shouldn’t become an obsession, and c) shouldn’t take the place of other meaningful actions, like looking for a new job.

                1. Sunshine*

                  I think your summation is accurate. I don’t think people expect it to be a silver bullet, but it’s just common practice.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Natalie, I agree with you and have actually had a column half-written for a year now about how the jump to “make sure you document it!” doesn’t serve any real function much of the time.

                3. Natalie*

                  @ Alison, it was comments here that made me start to rethink it, after working with some Heavy Duty “CYA!” folks. It really does seem to be a reflexive response, along with “fire them” and “sue them”.

                  Probably harmless, I suppose.

                4. Elizabeth H.*

                  @Alison – I would think you could also touch more broadly on things that aren’t useful unless you are actually planning to bring a civil suit. I was thinking about this since the discussion of what is and isn’t “assault” the other day.

            4. A Non E. Mouse*

              I understand the theory behind it. I’m asking if anyone has actually been in a situation where the tactic actually achieved the theorized results. That is, the documentation changed the outcome somehow.

              Yes, I can think of two:
              1) Long ago, I was begging to add head count to our department. I was told it “wasn’t in the budget, and we don’t think you really need anyone anyway” so I gathered internal metrics, found staffing calculations online based on various metrics (# of devices, # of locations, # of people, level of service required), ran the internal metrics against EACH to find staff requirements using each calc (so that I couldn’t be accused of picking the most favorable), showed that even with the lowest calc, at the lowest standard of service, we were HALF the staff needed, then took it ALL to a VP over the head of my boss, and got an additional staff member.

              2) Literally this week, we had a manager state that one of their people had asked for our help X number of times on Specific Topic, and we only told them to do Y each time, with Y not resolving the issue. I dug up our records on the Z number of times since the beginning of the year we were contacted by that location (not just that person, the entire location) about Specific Topic, where Z is actually 1 less than X. Those records showed three different resolutions offered (all worked, as it was on Specific Topic but on a different part of each), with only one being Y (and working when offered), PLUS an in-person visit by one of our staff to their off-site location plus the data that this isn’t even our project, we are simply backing up project owner, who is ABC, per a VP. Said manager backed off.

              I’ve had others with less data – the time I proved another department (and not us) effed something up twice 5 years apart because I happened to have saved an email someone else sent while I was on maternity leave; pulling a signed document out of my desk drawer when asked “Who approved this?!”, that sort of thing – but those two stand out as involving documentation from multiple sources, with actual numbers.

              1. Natalie*

                I don’t know if I’d call the first example documentation in the way it’s being used here. Analyzing data to make a case is a bit different than saving emails and texts in case someone later claims they didn’t say or do something.

                But, it does give me an idea of what I would add when recommending documenting – think about what your goal in documenting is. Are you just trying to keep yourself from going crazy? Then just noting things in a diary is probably sufficient. Do you need to build a case for a staff member? In that case a bunch of emails from your boss will probably help less than hard data on response times or normal staffing numbers or what have you. Are you building a harassment case against someone? Then your getting into the realm of law, and the emails and specific times, etc might actually help.

            5. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

              Ok, so I’ll admit my documentation didn’t change the results, but that was because my boss was completely unreasonable. I think that if I had a somewhat reasonable boss or a higher up/grandboss that I could go to (it was a tiny, tiny company) then I think the outcome would have been completely different.

              I had a boss who requested a specifc report at the end of the month and the beginning of the month, but he kept changing the exact day that he wanted (and expected me to know that psychically). He said give me the report on the 25th. So I give him the report on the 25th, he said “what’s this, I want it on the last day of the month”. Ok, so I change the calendar reminder. Next month, he stop by desk on the last Fri of the month and asks where the report is. I tell him I thought the report was due on the 31st, he goes off on a rant about how I need to take ownership of things and I need to stop being lazy. None of this is in writing, so I know there’s a chance I could be wrong, but I’m 99% sure he specifically said the last day of the month, b/c why would I have changed my calendar reminder. This time I send him an email saying “As per our earlier conversation, I will be sending you the xyz report on the last Friday of every month” to document. He didn’t respond, but at least I had it in writing.

              Next month roles around and he wants it on the 25th. I didn’t bring up the original email, but I was able to respond more confidently. You asked for it on the last Fri of the month but I’m happy to switch it back to the 25th and will do it right now. I also sent another email documenting. Next month same thing happens along with another rant on my laziness and failure at basically everything. I wait 30min, ask for a meeting the next day. Print both of my emails to show him. Even though he could see the emails it was like what he was reading sailed right through his brain. I started job searching the next day.

              So no, I didn’t get results, but anyone even remotely reasonable would have taken my documentation into account. Or if I wanted to remain at the company, but needed to fight a poor review/PIP/request a raise I would have something to counteract his description of me as lazy and disorganized.

            6. Mike C.*

              Yes, it’s especially useful when someone is acting in an unusual or extreme manner – folks have a hard time taking your word that the issue is happening or otherwise need to see it for themselves.

              1. Natalie*

                Huh, I’d almost say it’s less necessary in that case – if your bigger boss thinks you’re making up totally bizarre stories you have much bigger problems in your workplace. The update just posted is a perfect example.

            7. Gadfly*

              LastJob: salesperson who love you to death and throw you under the bus at the drop of a hat. CYA= Cover Your Ass…istant. Because when it is their word against yours it is wonderful to pull out ‘here is the email summary I sent uou after the call…’

              Customers could be worse.

              Documentation saved me many times.

              1. Rick Tq*

                +10000, but in my case it was a sales rep loved by the owner because his quotes were profitable but hated by project management because his projects were net losses to the company from so many unpaid services..

                We were going to be ~$20k in the hole (net loss) because of missing hardware and the rep blamed me. I pulled out the email from him that said “don’t do your job and design a solution, just match the other vendor’s quote”. The other guys missed a big chunk of hardware…

                The jerk finally quit when he was told he would get zero commissions from any order that didn’t use me or one of my peers to specify the solution… There was great rejoicing in the project management office that day..

        2. aebhel*

          In my experience, higher-ups will tend to believe the boss’s framing of a conflict unless there’s evidence against it, and that applies even to people who are not otherwise unreasonable people. Because the boss is probably not going to frame it as ‘I constantly text at odd hours on employees’ days off and lose it if they don’t respond immediately’; she’s going to frame it as ’employees are ignoring my communications and being insubordinate’. So some evidence that, uh, actually that’s not the case can be helpful.

        3. Awkward Interviewee*

          Yes, documentation has helped me in the past. At Old Job I was being harassed by a coworker. At first my complaints weren’t taken seriously. It wasn’t until I had pages and pages of inappropriate things he had said and done that something was done about it.

          1. Natalie*

            Ah, yes, in a situation with a peer I can totally see the use. I was thinking more of a situation with one’s boss, but I obviously didn’t specify that.

            1. Awkward Interviewee*

              Yeah, I can see it sometimes being less useful if the offender is a boss. However, I actually did finally take my documentation above the dept chair’s head (I work in higher ed… dept chair wasn’t my boss, but was the person who was supposed to deal with it) because he was trying to victim blame me. The person in the Title IX office took one look at my documentation and said “uhh you shouldn’t have to endure this.”

        4. paul*

          Depends on how upper this manager is. If she’ the CEO you’re hosed. If she’s a mid level manager in a larger corporation you’ve got a better shot.

        5. Zombii*

          >General question for documentation advocates: so you recommend this because it’s something you’ve done successfully, or just because it’s common sense?

          It’s common sense bordering on logical-until-you-scrutinize it. Documentation is only useful if your intent is to present that documentation to someone at some point.

          I could give you dozens of counter-examples that hinge on the company being toxic or otherwise resistant to accepting the documentation as valid (I found a major flaw in how a metric that determined our bonus was calculated at ExJob, and they basically told me to suck it because they weren’t going to recalculate the metrics to measure what they had told us we were being measured on; I was told to document certain actions of people in my department for coaching purposes, then they said they weren’t going to bother with coaching because turnover was so high anyway and they didn’t want to risk losing people just because they were costing the company obscene amounts of money due to client penalties/fees, etc).

    2. Mookie*

      Are you sure your boss isn’t a Gremlin? It sounds like when you let her near water she acts like a terror all night and into the pre-work morning.

      I understood that reference!

    3. Still learning how to adult...*

      Alison is right about sooo many things; especially that this boss is deranged.

      Yes, much of what I say below is predicated on you being an hourly employee.

      Are there any explicit points in the job description that you have to respond to your boss at nights & weekends? If not, you have the option to turn off your own personal phone after working hours. It’s your time, it’s your phone, and until the company starts paying you on-call or standby pay, and covers part of your cellphone bill every month, they can pound sand down a rathole.

      Certainly another point to bring up to the boss is that every response you make will be accompanied by noting 1 hour of OT pay. You can be ‘nice’ and bring it down to maybe 30, even 15 minutes when she objects. Labor law would probably back you up.

      Even in my situation of taking ‘standby pay’ on rotation with my colleagues, it’s written so that any response is automatically worthy of 4 hours of OT pay, in addition to the standby.

      In practice in my current job, my boss might text me during the weekend/night as a courtesy to let me know something is up and will need to be dealt with as soon as business opens.

      Moving forward, document, document, documnet, every time your boss texts you after hours, AND HER REACTION TO YOUR NON-ANSWER. She’s being unreasonable.

      If your company has a weak or no HR, yes, you have to play CYA to the Nth degree. Even with a good HR, you should be CYA to the Nth-1 degree.

      Good luck

      1. Natalie*

        Certainly another point to bring up to the boss is that every response you make will be accompanied by noting 1 hour of OT pay. You can be ‘nice’ and bring it down to maybe 30, even 15 minutes when she objects. Labor law would probably back you up.

        Not anywhere in the US, unless California has an “on-call” law. You have the right to be paid for all hours worked, but your company is in no way obligated to pay some kind of minimum amount for OT or on-call work.

        What you’re describing at your workplace sounds like a policy or possibly a union requirement, but it ain’t the law.

        1. Natalie*

          Should clarify – a company doesn’t have to pay any minimum # of hours beyond what you actually worked. They do have to pay a minimum dollar amount per hour, time and a half.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          California has “on call” provisions, but they vary based on your profession and the context. :) I might be misremembering, but I think the “minimum” time billed is 15 min. for the period on which you’re required to be “on call.” But this only applies if you’re hourly.

          1. Natalie*

            Ha, figures! I just knew if there was any state with on-call provisions it would be good old California.

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          The problem, as was explained by employment counsel when dealing with requests to tether our non-exempt staff to mobile email, is not the time it takes to respond to the message, it’s the expectation that the employee is immediately available and ready to work at a moment’s notice (essentially, if the employee’s freedom from work is interfered with, it may activate the “on-duty” provision).

      2. Hellanon*

        Yes, including the overtime in your timekeeping if you are non-exempt would probably quash this pretty quickly.

    4. always in email jail*

      I suggested the call thing as well further down. It may very well backfire, but I used it to mild success when I was in a similar situation. *most* people are more hesitant to call than text and it gives them a moment to pause. Also, it means they have to actually interrupt what they’re doing (step away from the restaurant table, walk out of the movie theatre, tell their kids to be quiet for a moment, etc.) and may give a bit of insight into how disruptive their constant demands for action are to your life. Or maybe not.
      please find another job. I’ve lived this, and I didn’t realize how much the constant stress of having to be tied to my phone was affecting m until I got a job where my boss didn’t have these unreasonable expectations. Seriously. My energy levels increased dramatically.

    5. LC*

      Hmm, to me she sounds like the editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine that expects unreasonable tasks from her assistants including- but not limited to- flying them back from Florida to NY, getting the unpublished Harry Potter manuscript, and walking her dog. Anyone with me?

  3. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

    OP1: Are you an exempt employee? Because if you aren’t, responding to those texts is “work” and you should be getting paid for it. That may be a good track to take bringing this to HR or grand boss. BEcause this needs to be escalated. It’s unrealistic that you must be on call and available 24/7.

    1. Dizzy Steinway*

      Came here to ask the same question. OP, even reading those texts constitutes work.

    2. Nic*

      It sounds like she’s a teacher. From my own experience teaching, teachers put in however many hours are necessary and make the same amount regardless. I’ve taught at schools that expected me on call 24/7 and ones that didn’t expect me “on” unless I was physically at the building.

      1. Kj*

        If she’s a teacher, hopefully there is a clear contract the OP can refer to that explains the hours she is expected to work. Or maybe a union that can back OP and her co-workers up. Teachers may put in however many hours they need to BUT they usually on paper have good working conditions and clearly laid-out hours. I hope this is true for OP, as it could help with clarity.

      2. Parenthetically*

        I thought that at first, but her referring to “HQ” made me wonder if it’s not something different.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          She talked about watching the children, so maybe some kind of educational toy company, with focus and test groups of children?

          1. Natalie*

            Or childcare – there are some larger chains that have many care centers and one central office.

            1. Cristina*

              But don’t they usually have a director or administrator to handle information requests? Why is this teacher responsible for something like that at all hours of the day and night?

              1. fposte*

                Because her boss is crazy. There’s no reasonable arrangement that fits into the OP’s template.

    3. sstabeler*

      for that matter- and bear in mind that I am not a lawyer, so do consult one before doing anything- it occurs to me that this might well rise to the level of “engaged to wait” as opposed to “waiting to be engaged” which means you need to be paid for those hours ANYWAY. (as a rule of thumb, the less you can actually do while on call- and this is a functional analysis, so it doesn’t matter what they claim you can do, just what actually happens- the more likely it is you need to be paid. Needing to respond instantly more-or-less prevents you doing anything at all, so probably needs to be paid)

      I suspect that if so, about two seconds after needing to pay for 72 hours of overtime per employee per week (assuming the boss isn’t so out of line not to accept “I was asleep” as a reason not to respond- if so, it rises to 128 hours overtime) the boss would get either fired, or at a minimum, forced to knock it off. (I’m 99% sure exempt status is actually irrelevant here- even exempt employees can’t have an equivalent hourly wage less than minimum wage, and even if she did allow “I was sleeping”, it would almost certainly be too many hours.)

      1. Antilles*

        I’m 99% sure exempt status is actually irrelevant here- even exempt employees can’t have an equivalent hourly wage less than minimum wage, and even if she did allow “I was sleeping”, it would almost certainly be too many hours.
        No, it’s probably still relevant. It’s true that exempt employees can’t be lower than minimum wage, but the numbers make that a pretty hard case to make even in the situations OP has described.
        The average salary for teachers is somewhere around $45,000 (or so Google tells me). That works out to somewhere around $850-900 a week – which at typical minimum wage (around $8.50 nationwide, with an actual minimum of $7.25) works out to 100+ hours. As intrusive as these texts may be, it’s probably unlikely they rise to that high of a level consistently enough to show ‘engaged to wait’. As an example, if there are rarely texts between, say, 11:00 pm and 6:00 am (because the boss is asleep), suddenly it becomes much harder for your actual wage to really drop below the minimum wage.

        1. sstabeler*

          I did say “might”- but I actually disagree. It’s not about how often you are actually called- or texted- it’s about how restricted you are in what you can do- and needing to drop what you are doing to reply to a text within 5 minutes is pretty disruptive. (also, if there’s 7 hours per day you are free of it, that works out to be 119 hours worked per week- meaning you would need to be paid $44.5k per year at the Federal minimum. In most states, it’d be $49k or above. (in 30 states, it could drop below the minimum wage. That’s a 60% chance, which is pretty good. (particularly since that’s probably high enough for the boss’s higherups to come down on them, which is the actual aim.))

          1. Morning Glory*

            The OP would only get to define hours worked as the time it takes to read the text, find the answer, and respond.

            The OP’s situation is similar to on-call employees. Even if they are hourly, they don’t get paid unless they need to be on-call at the business’s physical location. Restrictions like requiring employees to be immediately responsive via phone or pager, or not drinking alcohol while being on-call, are not sufficient to define this time as ‘hours worked.’

            1. sstabeler*

              Actually, the standard is “if your time is essentially no longer your own” then you are entitled to be paid. (I’ve checked on a site written by a lawyer.) So being literally immediately responsive via phone or pager might do it, depending on what “immediately responsive” is. If it was “Hi, I got the message and am on my way in”, then you would be right- that’s waiting to be engaged, and is not required to be paid. In the OP’s case, they must answer the actual question within minutes- which presumably would limit them to places where they could quickly check their employer’s system if necessary, which probably is a sufficient restriction to make it “engaged to wait”. As I said, it’s something to ask an actual lawyer about before doing anything. It might, however, if I’m right, give ammo to take to HR/their boss’s boss about this.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                That’s not entirely accurate—being engaged to wait has a materially different meaning in federal law. Morning Glory is right that it refers to professions with hourly limitations, like nurses and firefighters, who have to be “on call” and available on-site, but cannot pursue other work during the period of time that they’re on call. The on-site requirement is what typically knocks out concerns re: emails/texts/calls taken outside the workplace. If OP is hourly, she can certainly still bill that time (and I would argue it’s helpful to document even if she’s salaried), but she can only recover wages for her actual time, not the “waiting hours.”

                Most state laws go by the federal rule. California has broader (and separate) provisions that specify how many hours of advance notice are required, how a person opts out, whether an “immediate response” prevents the worker from other life and work activities, etc. But it’s the exception, and even then, I don’t think it’s provisions would apply to OP in this context.

        2. blackcat*

          New teachers and teachers in parochial schools in rural areas can make as little as 25k, though that’s spread over 9 months, not 12. That average of 45k is skewed by NJ/NY/MA, which all have districts where teacher scales top out north of 100k/year for folks with a MA +30 status and 30 years service.

          And, it’s my understanding that teachers are always exempt, and there is no equivalent hourly wage test.

          The vibe of the letter makes me think that this may be a private school of some sort (possibly religious). So I doubt there’s a legal issue here. Boss is terrible, no doubt, but the main way to handle it would be to go over the boss’s head with a group of coworkers. A board of directors would want to know if their head of school is about to chase off good teachers based on unreasonable expectations.

          1. sstabeler*

            it’s not a test for exempt status- it’s that being exempt doesn’t exempt you from the minimum wage, so if your salary puts you below MW due to hours worked, you can bring an MW complaint, which, as far as the company is concerned, is juts as bad as an unpaid overtime complaint.

            1. fposte*

              It does exempt you from federal minimum wage–in the DOL’s words, “The Act exempts some employees from its overtime pay and minimum wage provisions,” and that includes the big executive, administrative, and professional employees exemption that covers teachers.

              State law may operate differently, of course.

              1. sstabeler*

                dammit, I just checked, and you’re right. well, that pretty much means the discussion about if it’s paid on-call or not I was having above’s irrelevant- if they’re exempt from the minimum wage provisions, it doesn’t matter if it’s paid on-call or not. (I was thinking about the provisions for piecework- regardless of how much an employee produces, they must receive at least the minimum wage plus any overtime. So if you are employed to make beefburgers and paid per burger, if you only produce 1 beefburger per week, they still need to pay you $290 for the week, provided you actually are working 40 hours that week.

              2. Nic*

                Once when I was teaching I figured out my average actual hourly wage. It came to around $3-4. Of course much of those hours were at my house, but it’s not possible to complete grading and planning in the “planning hour”.

                Any minimum-wage complaint would be laughed at, I’m sure.

          2. Parenthetically*

            I started out at the private school where I teach at way under 25k, for what it’s worth, and was paid over 12 months. There are several other private schools in my midsized midwestern city that start new teachers off around 18-20k, even ones who are in their MA process.

        3. sstabeler*

          I just rechecked, and teaching is, in fact, exempt from the minimum wage, making it irrelevant to the OP’s situation. I still disagree that it’s not “engaged to wait”, but it’s irrelevant now.

            1. fposte*

              We’re getting into the grey area where education starts to confuse me :-). She’s watching the kids, so she’s not in administration–are you thinking some kind of paraprofessional position that involves watching but not teaching?

              1. Parenthetically*

                Someone above suggested an educational toy company where she’s watching groups of kids try out new products. My thought was that she’s a tester for a curriculum company, or an independent testing company that comes into schools and runs their standardized tests. That would involve some instruction and working with kids, but isn’t teaching.

              2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

                Maybe a TA? All of our lower elementary classes have them. They are all paid hourly too.

                1. fposte*

                  That’s the kind of thing I was wondering about. I didn’t know they’d gotten more common in elementary school–interesting.

                2. fposte*

                  @sstabeler–not if her actions are primarily crowd control and safety rather than instruction. It’s all about the instruction.

              3. eduardoleonidas*

                Some Early Childhood/Preschools have gotten trouble for treating every full time teacher as exempt. My wife teaches 3/4 year olds, and is exempt. But teachers in the infant rooms are not. If your job is primarily taking care of the physical needs of children, such as changing diapers, you probably should not be exempt. If you are educating children you can be.
                The extent to which this is actually enforced in the poorly paying early childhood education field is of course highly variable.

  4. NoMoreMrFixit*

    For #1 if you are being contacted about work matters off hours then you should be paid for that. Depending on exactly where you live there are laws about how much the employer is required to pay employees in these situations. If you have a union there should also be language in the collective agreement regarding this.

    Your boss is way out of line. If you confront her with this info do so as a group if at all possible. And if there is anyone over her then escalate this. IANAL but I’m pretty sure your boss may be breaking labour laws.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It’s unclear from the letter if OP’s boss is breaking the law, but I suspect she’s exempt, in which case the boss isn’t breaking any laws by contacting her after hours (she’s not breaking laws even if OP were non-exempt, but she would have to compensate OP for the after-hours time it takes to respond to the boss’s communications).

      Regardless of whether OP is exempt or non-exempt, I agree with Ophelia that it’s worth tracking, anyway, because it likely adds up. Assuming there’s an HR department or any bosses above OP’s boss, it would be helpful to have that data to make a business argument for why the boss’s conduct is costly and inefficient.

      1. always in email jail*

        It’s worth tracking. My bosses let up a little when I pointed out I had been on-call for over 1,500 hours with zero compensation or flexibility.

  5. Amber*

    #1 “I received a scathing message about how I kept on ignoring my messages and it has happened several times, and that she would take it into consideration during our appraisals.” Personally, I would take this as a huge red flag meaning that she WILL hold this against you during appraisals and not judge you fairly. I would start job searching now, this is not normal behavior.

          1. k*

            Yep, if she ever needs to take this to a higher up at the company having evidence will prevent it from being just her word against bosses.

              1. Natalie*

                And that leads to what, exactly? Is LW’s boss going to get fired? If not, is getting reprimanded from Grandboss or HR going to turn LW’s boss into a reasonable person and not an asshole?

                1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

                  Probably won’t turn her into a reasonable person, but probably would correct this specific behavior, and could help protect OP from unreasonable retaliation on their evaluations.

                2. LBK*

                  Yeah, I’m generally of the opinion that if you tell someone that your boss is texting you at all hours of the day and they’re not moved by your word alone, they’re not going to necessarily care a lot more if you can show them the texts. They might go through the motions more if you have hard evidence, but most good managers and I’d think most HR people are accustomed to operating on someone’s word rather than replying to every report with “prove it”.

                3. Natalie*

                  @ Not Mad, I suppose. I think I would personally be concerned that their next crazy action would be worse, but I am also someone with a lot of practice ignoring my phone. I’m probably not as motivated to stop the “crazy text problem” because they don’t bother me that much, but obviously that won’t be a universal experience.

                4. hbc*

                  Sometimes the higher ups can’t see that someone is an asshole until they’re shown, so yeah, maybe she doesn’t get fired on report number one, but the seed is planted.

                  And for all OP knows, this is the first documented report of craziness but there are a few unconfirmed “She’s really demanding” where it’s genuinely hard to make out where the real story is. This could easily shift the balance towards firing.

                5. LBK*

                  I think situations where upper management doesn’t realize how much one of their middle managers suck until someone tells them are far outnumbered by situations where upper management knows and either doesn’t care or doesn’t feel like dealing with it.

                  Not to say that there’s no chance upper management will address the situation if it’s brought to their attention. I just wouldn’t want to get the OP’s hopes up by treating a screenshot of the texts like a smoking gun.

                6. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

                  This is a principal. School district management resides in a different building, probably across town, and a principal operates very independently day to day. It’s very likely nobody at the district level has any idea this boss is a maniac.

                7. LBK*

                  Did the OP clarify that somewhere the comments? It wasn’t clear to me from the letter exactly what the roles are here; it didn’t sound like a teacher and principal based on the work duties the OP was describing.

          2. Colette*

            If answering texts out of regular business hours is part of her job, it’s reasonable to expect her to do it and reflect it on her progress report. I don’t think it should be part of her job, but it seems that her boss disagrees, so the existence of the texts doesn’t actually prove she’s unreasonable.

        1. she was a fast machine*

          Because IF she doesn’t get another job before her boss fires her, that would be useful to have for unemployment

    1. AnonAnalyst*

      This would be my concern. Even if she stops texting, I would worry that my career at that company would be limited under that manager given her vindictive attitude. It sucks, but I would be looking to get out ASAP.

  6. BeckyDaTechie*

    OP#1, in some states and/or companies, there are rules in place stating you should be *paid* for any out of work time you spend texting, emailing, or phoning with and for your boss.

    It may be worth checking your company guidelines and state labor rulings on these kinds of “be at my beck & call 24/7” situations; having a statute to cite when you tell your boss that she might have to wait while you do the dishes sometimes can make it easier to set a boundary if you decide to go that route.

    I only found out after the fact that a former boss’s demand for texts with end of day numbers *after* we’d closed up should have been paid time after it had been “expected proper procedure” *for years*. 10 minutes a day outside the office doesn’t seem like much, but to an hourly employee taking those 10 minutes 9-12 times a week, that free work stacks up.

      1. Jaintenn*

        Not true in my experience, which includes years as manager of HR and Payroll for a local government. We paid overtime, though some were paid with comp time instead of cash. I have never been able to find a blanket exemption to FSA for government.

        1. Oryx*

          It’s the comp time that is different for government employees. That is, the fact that comp time exists and can be banked and used weeks or even months later. That’s not legal for everyone else.

      2. doreen*

        As far as I can tell, the rules for exemption are the same , whether the job is in the public or private sector. So teachers are exempt whether they work for the government or in a private school and janitors are not exempt whether they work for a government or a private business. And it’s not uncommon for governments to go beyond FLSA requirements ( either because of union contracts or the government’s own policy) – for example, both governments I have worked for paid time and a half for any hours paid over 40 although FLSA only requires it for hours worked over 40.

        1. Jaintenn*

          @ Oryx and doreen…

          From my research, there are really two differences for government under FLSA: 1) It is permissible for government to pay non-exempt employees for overtime with comp time instead of cash. There are rules for this: comp time must accrue at time-and-a-half, and there is a maximum to the hours an employee can accrue (480 for most positions). Our policy was to set a limit of 60 hours for all employees. 2) Government entities/agencies are covered by the FLSA regardless of whether or not they have >$500k in annual revenue or employees engaged in interstate commerce. Private sector must meet one of those tests to be subject to FLSA (except movie theaters, wtf?).

          1. Gazebo Slayer (formerly I'm a Little Teapot)*

            There are a lot of weird carveouts in federal labor law – most of which specifically targeted jobs and industries that had a lot of nonwhite workers in the 1930s when they were written, though I’m not sure if the movie theater thing is one of those. US labor law is racist as well as terrible in a lot of other ways.

      3. AnonSub*

        The school system I work in has it set up so that OT isn’t even really possible for teachers to clock. They started using a digital clock-in system where you swipe your badge, and teachers and administration are all automatically clocked out at 3PM. Support staff (secretary, clerical asst. custodians, maintenance dept, etc) all have to clock out for lunch and at the end of the day, subs clock out and back in during teacher planning periods and lunch and can’t work more than 28 hours/week or the school system will supposedly be fined 2 mil because they have to offer anyone who works more than that health insurance and there’s no ‘I have my own insurance so I waive my right to be offered this benefit’ waiver.

        The also turned extra after-school things where a teacher might earn a little extra money like selling tickets at sports events into volunteer things so they wouldn’t have to deal with possibly having subs ending up going over 28 hours (plus there’s no time clocks at the football stadiums).

        1. Rebeck*

          “teachers and administration are all automatically clocked out at 3PM.”

          I’m sorry, WHAT?

          That is… I can’t even.

      4. Whale*

        Teachers are exempt from the law, as are random other government workers, such as congressional staff but most government works are not exempt.

    1. always in email jail*

      It’s worth looking in to. I’m government and exempt, but my old boss required me to answer all communications within 15 minutes 24/7, and I couldn’t travel more than an hour away(even on my personal time on the weekend), and I would get in trouble if I violated these conditions. I found something in our state HR rules (I’m a state employee) stating that 1. I couldn’t be disciplined for not answering a text unless we had a written and signed on-call agreement in place and 2. If we had an agreement in place, I had to be compensated (with comp time! something very elusive for exempt state employees where I work!) for the times I was expected to be on call. I think it was 1 hour of comp for every 8 hours of on-call.
      It didn’t help much, the only restriction they lifted was saying I had to stay within an hour of my work location on my own time. But at least I knew that, without a written agreement in place, there wasn’t much they could do. but do find a new job soon.

      1. Janice in Accounting*

        Wait: you had to stay within an hour’s travel at ALL TIMES? Like, weekends, holidays, etc?

      2. Anna*

        I am almost positive your boss could not actually require you to do that, no matter what you boss thought. Exempt is not defined as available 24/7 no matter what.

  7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, I would be extremely frustrated, and if I were in a particularly bad mood, I’d be livid. I agree with Alison that you should first check to see if your state’s employment discrimination laws include LGBT identity or relationship-status (it’s unlikely you fall into the latter category, but some states offer a distinct protection for same-sex relationships… but those states also are often the ones with protections for LGBT identity).

    Assuming you are not in a state where she can fire you based on your relationship/identity, then I would correct her every time she mischaracterizes your relationship. I would do this in a jokingly exasperated tone, like “Yup, my girlfriend and I have been roommates for years, now!” or “Yeah, I thought all I was getting was a girlfriend, but turns out she’s doing double-duty as my roommate!” or any comment that refers to your boss’ partner/spouse as her roommate, or any other phrase that emphasizes how ridiculous and absurd your boss sounds (those aren’t actual scripts, just the general tone I’d strive for).

    You could do the “I need you to respect me” talk, but I worry that she’s not going to respond to that. There’s also a small chance that this might be a generational problem, which doesn’t excuse her bad behavior, but it could mean her constant errors are callous but not malicious. If that’s the case, then a gentler approach would likely go farther. But it sounds like you don’t think this is a culture gap, but rather, an intentional expression of intolerance/disrespect.

    1. Drew*

      “Oh, Boss, we haven’t been just roommates for years now!”

      Maybe that opens doors you don’t want opened (like inviting your boss to imagine just how the relationship has changed) but it’s more light-hearted than “Could you not refer to my partner as my roommate?”

      Your boss sounds annoying and I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this. Hopefully, she’ll soon realize how ridiculous she’s being to single out your and ONLY your romantic relationship this way.

      1. Mookie*

        I think all of these scripts, yours and Princess Consuela Banana Hammock’s, could work quite well because they draw additional attention to a topic that clearly unnerves the boss. If she doesn’t want to constantly be reminded that the LW is a lesbian, she needs to stop erasing the LW’s homosexuality. Take a tip from the bigots themselves: shove it (respectfully and cheerfully, even) down their throats, just like they always say we do, each and every time the boss, or anyone else, undermines your identity.

        1. HannahS*

          Yeah, I agree. I particularly things like, “*chuckle* Gwennifer’s my girlfriend, not my roommate.”

    2. Mookie*

      There’s also a small chance that this might be a generational problem, which doesn’t excuse her bad behavior, but it could mean her constant errors are callous but not malicious.

      My experience is probably not universal, but when I encounter people like this who are genuinely well-meaning they tend to fumble the preferred language (using words now regarded as dehumanizing slurs, switching out “partner” for “girl/boyfriend” or vice versa, botching pronouns) rather than simply refuse to use it or conveniently and regularly ‘forget’ what it is because It’s So Hard to Remember. But this is a possible, and slightly less nefarious, explanation.

      1. Mazzy*

        IME people would use something like “roommate” because they assume others want you to be discreet and not take the liberty to disclose their homosexuality. In other words, they are trying to be polite.

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          IMO, this only counts like this if, eg it’s a good friend doing it in front of a group of people they don’t know, because they don’t want to out their friend unintentionally. If OP refers to her girlfriend as her girlfriend at work, then this isn’t going to be the case

        2. Morning Glory*

          I can see that, especially in regions that are more socially conservative.
          But I don’r think it applies here. The OP stated everyone in the office knows she is a lesbian.

        3. Former Retail Manager*

          Agreed…100% and that was what I interpreted the boss’ actions as being. Homosexuality is still a touchy subject for many people in many geographic areas and many people just don’t know what to say/how to say/who to say it to/not say it to/etc. I think the issues are also amplified depending upon what generation the boss is from.

          OP, you say that everyone knows you are a lesbian, but does your boss know that everyone knows? I personally worked with a co-worker long ago who was similar to you (male though). He routinely talked about his boyfriend in front of anyone and everyone and it was well known by everyone, including our boss, that he was gay. Boss one day mentioned that Fergus and his boyfriend had traveled to a place that person was considering traveling to. Conversation was mentioned to Fergus in the context of travel, Fergus complained to HR that boss had violated his privacy by disclosing his sexual orientation by mentioning his boyfriend, boss was disciplined and henceforth only spoke of people’s partners by name, regardless of sexual orientation and referred to everyone’s partners as their “friend.” I am not implying that you would do this to your boss, but I wonder if your boss may have had a similar issue or attended some sort of “sensitivity training” that instructed them to basically not “out you?”

          Without more information to indicate otherwise, I’m inclined to believe this behavior is coming from a place of ignorance/polite intent as opposed to malice.

          1. Parenthetically*

            This was my assumption as well. If Boss is afraid to out someone, that would explain Boss’s reticence to use “girlfriend” or “partner.” It also opens up potential scripts to, “Oh, it’s fine for you to refer to Jane as my girlfriend, everyone knows I’m a lesbian.”

            1. k*

              I think that’s a great script. If it is an honest mistake, this nicely lets boss know. And if there is a more cruel intent, this is a hint to boss that you’re aware of what they’re doing, and that you’re not going to let it slide anymore.

          2. kb*

            I was thinking the same thing, although there’s a high likeliness boss is just terrible. I think Alison’s script and a lot of those suggested here do a nice job of clearly indicating that boss should call OP’s gf her gf, but still leaving some room not to call out the boss’s intentions. Because boss’s intentions could run the gambit from misguided but trying to be helpful to just ignorant to bigot. Unless boss continues after OP speaks with them, it’s probably in the best interest of the working relationship not to call out boss’s intentions.

            1. Parenthetically*

              Boss could definitely just be terrible and you are right that it’s in OP’s best interest to leave intentions alone.

          3. LCL*

            I was going to say what you said but you said it way better than I could. And what Parenthetically said. I live in a very tolerant city, but I would still police my language if I wasn’t positive the person I was referring to wasn’t out to everybody. And yes I want to be told someone’s preferred way to refer to their life partner/friend/companion/partner/roommate/ f—y/lover/wife/husband/better half, or whatever! Basic decency requires calling people what they want to be called, even if you personally have issue with the formality or lack thereof.

          4. I'd Rather not Say*

            That’s a good point. I agree that OP has the absolute right to request that boss refer to her partner as girlfriend, not roommate, but I think it’s only fair to ask the boss why he/she keeps saying roommate and give him/her a chance to explain. Maybe it is out of some sort of fear or ignorance, and not done to be hurtful.

          5. Nic*

            It’s amusing all the polite terms I’ve heard older generations use when they want to indicate homosexuality without being judgemental. I think my favorite is “they wear comfortable shoes”.

        4. Marcela*

          I am not sure. It is a fully different circumstance, but in my country there was a well documented ancient custom of using “friend” to call your partner when you were not married. My old uncles did that to introduce my husband when they thought we were not married, although we were living together at the time and everybody knew it (we were even living in a different country, so it was a very big deal when we visited). I always understood it as a deliberate attempt to erase whatever they did not approve, not a confusion about words or an attempt to politely hide that I was sleeping with somebody without having legal ties with him first.

        5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          My grandmother still uses “friend” and “roommate,” but to be fair, she’s also very weird about heterosexual relationships. She refers to monogamous, serious, pre-marital relationships as “having an affair” instead of using any of the more normal/common descriptions to signal someone is in a committed relationship.

          And I’ve certainly met older folks who are worried about “outing” an employee, particularly because a person could be out to some coworkers but not all, or to their workplace but not their family, etc., etc. It’s misguided, but it’s less nefarious and, in my opinion, merits a gentler/kinder touch when you’re correcting the person.

          1. Troutwaxer*

            I have an older uncle who is well-known to be very, very polite, and is in fact possessed of amazing social skills, who once said, “…that house is owned by a couple of very nice hairdressers,” by which he meant “Gay men.” I understood this to be a matter of extreme politeness due to the fact that we had young children in the car (one of whom later turned out to be LGBT.) He was simply raised in a different age and responded differently to certain social cues.

            1. Natalie*

              Were they actually both hairdressers, or is hairdressers his standard euphemism? Just curious.

          2. Dorothy Mantooth*

            My (now) father in law introduced me as son’s “friend” for at least 7 years.

            1. Hershele Ostropoler*

              My mother does that. My sister’s and my respective partners have learned not to take it amiss at this point.

              I don’t feel it’s necessary, in 2017, to strictly adhere to the three-types-of-relationship model, but I do feel awkward referring to someone’s “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” when one or more of the parties involved is over 30 or so.

              I don’t say “roommate,” though; I say “partner,” and “girlfriend/boyfriend” when it’s really the only unambiguous option. But my first thought was that the boss was trying to euphemize, out of personal discomfort and/or (perhaps instinctive) fear of someone else’s (possibly even OP’s).

      2. BenAdminGeek*

        Agreed about the fumbling/incorrect usage- my grandparents were fairly progressive people from the 30s onward, and always took the time to ensure they said “colored people” when referring to African-Americans. They tried so hard, but had gotten locked onto a term that was much more respectful in the past than what their peers were saying, but had become a callous/insensitive term in the intervening years, and couldn’t break the habit easily.

        1. yasmara*

          Ugh, my mother is fairly young (I’m 42 & she’s in her 60’s) and she messes this up all the time. I correct her. In the case of extended family members, “Mom, you can just say “husband.” They are husbands.” [Which is how they refer to themselves.] She was contorting around trying to figure out what to say.

        2. JB*

          I have older relatives who just can’t understand that “Colored People” is not ok but “People of Color” is.

        3. Mints*

          When I was in middle school my mom (~45 at the time) referred to all of my Asian friends as Chinese. We’re Hispanic and she didn’t grow up with any Asian people nearby. She kept insisting she wasn’t racist she was just use to the word (which I believe, ftr). But I corrected her LITERALLY every time “Your Chinese friend Ally” “She’s Vietnamese.”
          “You were at that Chinese girls birthday last week?” “Joy. She’s Laotian.”
          Occasionally “She’s actually Chinese!”

          I did it for a couple years with that special teenage stubbornness but it eventually caught on.

          The very elderly get a pass but barely.

      1. k*

        Oh I would so want to this, it was my first thought. Funny how my first reaction is always the petty, passive aggressive response :P

    3. Agnodike*

      I’ve had success with a light, smiling “Oh, [Boss], it’s not the 1950s, we’re allowed to say ‘girlfriend’ these days!” followed by “But seriously, she is my girlfriend/partner, so I’d prefer if you called her that.” After that, future conversations are progressively less light and less smiling, until finally I reach the point where I say flatly, “Unless you’re going to start using ‘roommate’ for all the straight gals’ boyfriends, it’s time to start calling her my girlfriend/partner.”

      It sucks that we still have to do this.

    4. jebly*

      I sometimes refer to my live-in boyfriend/domestic partner as my roommate, but only really when I’m feeling snarky and he’s being a turd. Like, when he shaves and doesn’t clean up the beard debris from the sink. But that’s my label and it is all in good fun. I would be offended if someone projected their believes on my own life and called him a roommate as a way of protest. I would probably start responding with, “You mean my girlfriend?” but again, I tend to suffer from snark.

    5. turquoisecow*

      I’m quite sympathetic to OP#2’s dilemma here – honestly, it is pretty callous, rude, insensitive, etc, for Boss to refer to girlfriend (or any other domestic partner) as “roommate”, but honestly, how often does this come up at work? Is this a workplace where the employees work late and constantly discuss how significant others feel about that? Is it a political thing, where SOs are expected to be supportive at state dinners or whatever? Or is this just in casual conversation?

      Before my husband and I got married, it was common talk around the office that we would – coworkers often asked, somewhat seriously, if I had a ring yet. Once, he locked himself out of the house in the middle of the day and I had to go and let him back in. I told my boss at the time that I would need to leave early, and he laughed and said “Ok, go rescue your future ex-husband.” But aside from these casual conversation, my significant other almost never came up at work, and if my coworkers or bosses never mentioned him, I would have been totally okay with that (too much personal conversation tends to make me uneasy in a work setting anyway).

      So, unless there’s some work situation wherein talk of SOs is relevant to the job, maybe the OP can just shut down personal conversation entirely? Why does Boss need to know about the girlfriend, even? If he’s starting personal conversations and using the incorrect terminology, maybe she can just say something like “Yeah, Jane is actually my girlfriend, as I’ve mentioned before. Anyway, about the Johnson account…,” and save personal conversations for people who use the right wording.

      1. Rose*

        You have no idea of obnoxious or privileged it is to say “just don’t ever talk about your personal life at work!” It’s happened multiple times so clearly it does come up in their office. You had a list of times coworkers asked about your husband. People like you are honestly worse than the blatant homophones. At least I know how they are.

        1. turquoisecow*

          I’m worse? Seriously? That’s kind of harsh. And I think the word you’re looking for is “homophobe,” not homophone.

          I worked for many years without a SO, and I didn’t talk a lot about my personal life at work because I didn’t HAVE a personal life. So I don’t know how “privileged” I am, but please, continue with the random insults.

        2. Electric Hedgehog*

          That’s super uncalled for. Frankly, getting super involved in discussions of your coworker’s personal lives is kinda unprofessional in a lot of places. Suggesting that someone spend their work time working and not talking about their spouse/significant other/dogs/kids/etc. isn’t bigoted or homophobic; it’s a legit solution to the problem OP is having.

          Now, if the boss Won’t. Let .It Go and keeps bringing it up awkwardly, I like the script given above that doesn’t jump automatically to assuming the boss is doing this out of bigoted and harmful intent – “Hey, man, everyone knows that I’m a lesbian, so you can refer to [Partner] as my partner or girlfriend, but I appreciate your efforts not to out me.”

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Wait, no, it’s really not a legit solution. Straight people talk about their SO’s at work; it comes up. It’s not okay to suggest that LGBTQ people just not do it in order to avoid triggering someone’s homophobia.

            1. Electric Hedgehog*

              I’ll concede that. But it’s also not ok to assume that people who advocate against talking about personal lives at work are doing so out of weird bigoted intent. Personally, I just prefer to keep my home life at home and my work life at work. I move away from discussion of either as quickly and easily as I can. It’s not that I’m trying to hide anything – I just don’t think it’s anyone’s business.

            2. Electric Hedgehog*

              You know, I thought about it, and I think there’s a better way to frame what I’m thinking here.

              Generally, on this blog, the advice given is the advice that’s going to give the OP the best outcome, even if there’s a path for a more extreme escalation or resolution. IMO, in this case, the quickest and easiest way to get the boss to stop calling your partner your roommate is to just stop discussing that topic with your boss. If that route is unsuccessful, move to the polite request that he refers to your partner by your preferred term, without implying that the boss has harmful intent (he may be a bigot, but people rarely respond positively when called out for that). Then move to the more direct “stop being a jerk” approach, and then, depending on your company and state, look into HR complaints/legal complaints/new job.

              Basically, I look at my home life as something I only discuss with friends. Coworkers and bosses are not automatically friends, so I don’t generally allow them access to that deeply private part of my life. And people who are disrespectful to me or my choices are going to get basic professional courtesy at work, and no more.

              I hope that helps clarify what I mean. I don’t want anyone to feel like they have to closet themselves at work or anywhere else because other people might not accept them, I just think that his is the easiest approach to get the desired result.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I see what you’re saying, but I don’t think it’s good advice when the problem is bigotry. It might let you avoid the offensive behavior, but it’s basically saying “closet yourself in order to make your boss stop saying homophobic things,” which is not a great solution. Picture it in a different context — like “just don’t talk about your black husband since your boss is a racist.”

                1. Electric Hedgehog*

                  It’s certainly not preferred, but depending on the boss’s level of asshattery, it may be what’s necessary to do until the OP can find a different job that doesn’t involve working for a nasty bigot. If the boss is truly awful and the OP is likely to be fired or face ill-treatment for speaking out, ducking her head and job searching for now is preferable to being unexpectedly without a paycheck.

                  The OP knows her workplace best – my suggestion is only what I would do in that situation.

      2. Honeybee*

        Where I work, it comes up a lot. My co-workers and I have a lot of idle chatter, and we also give each other the general reasons we’re going to be gone if we’re out of office. We have several LGBTQ people on the team (including myself) who freely and openly refer to their spouses just like everyone else.

        OP doesn’t need to shut down personal conversation entirely, especially if everyone else is talking about their SOs in regular conversation. Boss need to learn to use the right nouns.

        1. turquoisecow*

          Yeah, but do you often have conversations about your SOs with your boss? It seems like this is an occasional annoyance, and not a thing to quit over.

          1. JM60*

            It’s a matter of respect. Even if it doesn’t happen very often, it’s extremely disrespectful to refuse to call her girlfriend her girlfriend after she made it clear that she should be referred to as such. To a lot of people, don’t something very disrespectful, even if infrequently, can be a big deal.

      3. Jessie the First (or second)*

        It’s really not ok to post how your relationship was the subject of “common talk around the office” and how you did have to let your boss know a thing related to your boyfriend because of a random event one time, dismiss it as just “casual conversation” – and then tell the OP that her solution is simply not to have casual conversation.

        That’s the point, isn’t it? That in any office, there is going to be casual conversation sometimes. Not a focus of anyone’s day, but conversation happens and it is unavoidable, because we are people, and we are in the same building working together all day long. It was ok for your whole office to know of your boyfriend, after all – but you ask “why does Boss need to know about the girlfriend, even?” An LGBTQ person should not have to feel excluded from that normal, everyday, common casual conversation because the person is LGBTQ. How would it even be possible? The minute any chitchat happens, OP runs away? If someone asks some small-talk question, OP doesn’t answer because OP has to “hide” the existence of a girlfriend?

        1. turquoisecow*

          I’m not saying HIDE the existence of her girlfriend, I’m just saying that this seems like a minor issue. Is it interfering with OP’s ability to do her job? Is it going to result in her not getting a raise or a promotion? Is it going to result in her LOSING her job, simply because the boss is uncomfortable with her sexuality? Or is it just a weird quirk of the boss?

          People occasionally referred to my boyfriend as my husband. It was annoying and incorrect and somewhat embarrassing when we’d been dating for a month, but it wasn’t enough to interfere with my work or make me consider quitting.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It’s really, really not a minor issue to people who are made to feel they have to hide a significant part of who they are, while their coworkers do not have to hide that same piece of themselves.

          2. Anna*

            It’s a kind of microaggression when the OP’s boss won’t acknowledge the form of their relationship and to suggest the way to avoid that microaggression is to do what no one else has to do and not talk about their personal life/relationship/family is another one.

          3. RubyRachel*

            I’m generally a “comments observer” but your comments, turquoisecow, have prompted me to participate. It is not okay to tell LGBT folks to refrain from talking about their lives so as not to make others feel uncomfortable, or to avoid situations like OP’s. And hiding oneself is not a minor issue; LGBT folks have had to hide their lives for decades, resulting is serious psychological distress.

            Suggesting that an oppressed population remain silent so as to not be oppressed is discrimination.

        2. Brogrammer*

          Word. And I appreciate that by and large this blog understands that the appropriate response to “I’m dealing with homophobia at work,” is not “Well, why aren’t you closeted?”

    6. J-nonymous*

      OP#2 – if you don’t live in a state that protects you from discrimination based on your orientation and if you feel your boss might be prickly about addressing the matter head-on, you might consider approaching it as if your boss had a “legitimate” reason for calling your girlfriend your roommate. “I notice you call Jane my roommate when you mention her in front of the team. Don’t worry about outing me, everyone on the team knows I’m a lesbian and that Jane is my girlfriend, so please feel free to call her that.” (And I hear this in my head as a light, somewhat conversational tone.)

      I struggle with offering this advice because I actually don’t think people in historically marginalized groups are required to put in the extra emotional labor to make the people who are treating them poorly feel better about the criticism they are about to receive!

      That said, work is frequently a different beast, and if you don’t have legal protections in your state, preemptively smoothing feelings can be beneficial (at least it gives boss some face-saving reason for having been quite dismissive of your relationship to date). But just to be clear, I’m only recommending this *if* you don’t have legal protections in your state *and* you think your boss won’t react well (or could even retaliate) if you tackle this head-on.

  8. MadGrad*

    For #2, consider getting expressively confused whenever he mentions your roommate. Cocked head, furrowed eyebrow “wait, who? I don’t have a roommate” when this happens. Like, interrupt him to say this, every time if possible. Do not catch on quickly. When you do, make it an “OH! You’re talking about my GIRLFRIEND!”

    Vary it so it’s not too obtuse, but you can also start calling it out after a while. “Oh gosh, I always get confused for a moment when you forget we’re in a relationship”.

    I doubt he actually forgets, so pull a Captain Awkward and call him on his bluff. Return the discomfort to sender with some social Aikido. There’s nothing he can complain about in this approach without expressing unpleasant biases out loud.

    1. Chris*

      You could also ask sweetly if early onset alzheimer’s runs in their family since they seem to be forgetting a lot of things…

      1. MadGrad*

        Yeah, that actually crosses the border into rude or offensive I’d think. Part of the goal of this is to be perfectly sweet about it while also calling it out both to him and anyone else in/around the conversation. It’s about cutting away his plausible deniability and making it harder for him to get away with it.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          The boss is a lady! But nonetheless, it is bad form to suggest someone has early-onset Alzheimer’s. It’s extremely callous/cruel to those who have close family/friends who are coping with the disease, and it’s fundamentally ableist. It’s hard to maintain the moral high ground if you counter homophobia with language that denigrates another political minority.

    2. Cazkiwinz*

      Not “I” don’t have a roommate….. but “Wait, who? WE don’t have a roommate?”

  9. Susan*

    #2 – When you say that your boss “refuses” to refer to your girlfriend as “girlfriend,” does that mean you’ve asked and she said no? Or has she just always referred to her as your “roommate” and not taken the hint that she is actually your girlfriend? The reason I ask is that, if you haven’t specifically addressed this with your boss, it is possible that she thinks she is being discreet or something by saying “roommate” instead of “girlfriend.” Maybe she is concerned that she would be outing you if she said “girlfriend” (I know you said that everyone at work knows, but she may not be sure). Anyway, Alison’s script is perfect in either case, but it might help to realize that sometimes people say offensive things because they don’t realize they are offensive, and they are happy to stop once they realize they are being offensive.

    Also, even if you don’t live in a state where discrimination based on sexual orientation is illegal, many employers have their own internal policies about this, which may be in the employee handbook or diversity policy. If you don’t get anywhere by talking directly to your boss, you may be able to raise it with HR.

    1. M_Lynn*

      Oh this is the most gracious and positive way to think of this situation! I feel like 999 out of 1000 times, misappropriating a partner as a roommate is due to terrible, discriminatory, and hateful reasons. I think the OP’s letter makes it seem like the boss is in no way concerned about not outing her, and is in fact speaking in a way that promotes harm, but I do appreciate the possibility that it might just be clueless attempts at protection.

      1. AnotherAnon*

        I agree with your evaluation. I also think it might be helpful for the OP to explicitly phrase it as, “I’d actually prefer you refer to my girlfriend as my girlfriend or as my partner. You’ve referred to her as my “roommate” repeatedly so I thought I’d give you a heads-up that I’m out at work/that’s the most accurate way to describe my relationship with her and that’s the one I’d like you to use.”
        Maybe it gives the boss more credit/lenience than she’s due, but *if* this is the first time OP’s tried to have this conversation, it might be a more comfortable conversation for her and may be more likely to get the results she wants. (If it’s not the first time they’ve had this conversation, though, then all benefit of the doubt is gone and a more direct approach would probably be better.)

      2. Dr Wizard, PhD*

        Amusingly, my boss did this the other way around. My flatmate is a close friend of mine ever since college, and I chat about him at work sometimes since he’s a fun character. I’m also out at work, and it was quite a while into my new job before I realised my boss thought he and I were a couple, and was following my lead in talking about him as my flatmate. :D

    2. Dizzy Steinway*

      Hmm. If they don’t realise they are being offensive, that excuse runs out the first time someone tells them. Then it’s on them.

      I’m not sure it’s OP’s job to correct her boss, beyond checking once she knows she’s not outing OP against her wishes as you say. Because I don’t feel it’s reasonable to say it falls to the people on the receiving end of any kind of prejudice to be responsible for correcting it, when maybe that person doesn’t want to engage with someone who’s prejudiced against them, or risk further ill-treatment. If someone is prejudiced, they are highly unlikely to say: “Oh wow, I had no idea I was being homophobic! I’ll change my behaviour completely this instant!”

      1. PB*

        “Because I don’t feel it’s reasonable to say it falls to the people on the receiving end of any kind of prejudice to be responsible for correcting it.”

        Yes! This x1,000.

        IME, it’s really hard to get to people truly realize that they’re saying something offensive. When I’ve tried to explain to people before that referring to someone’s partner as their “friend” or “roommate” is offensive, they’ll tell me I’m wrong, and that I’m being too sensitive. That said, I’d rather keep trying. With any luck, it will get through eventually, especially if they’re hearing it from multiple people.

        1. AnotherAnon*

          I think it largely depends on your audience. I get the impression that OP’s boss is the type to need either a very gentle approach or a very direct one (can’t really say which without knowing her).
          Personally, I’ve found explaining works best – *if* it’s a productive environment. I’ve had great results with family members open to discussion, and with others in a learning environment. But if they aren’t open to thinking about it, the discussion is going to go nowhere and sometimes a direct “you can think what you like, but you need to be civil and respectful to this person and part of that is using the words that are correct for them” works better than even trying to explain. (With many other shades in between and beyond, but I think adapting to audience is pretty much essential for actually getting your point through.)

        2. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

          I’m just going to say – one time, about 10 years ago, I referred to someone in the trans community very rudely/offensively. Someone else (who I later found out was in the process of transitioning themselves) kindly, but directly, pointed out how offensive and disrectful what I said was. I don’t think I responded particularly well (I think I sputtered a bit, said “that’s not what I meant” and changed the subject), but that experience absolutely stuck with me. I have never used that term again, I absolutely realize how hurtful/disrectful what I said was and I have been much more thoughtful about my word choices regarding minority communities. I don’t think I ever thanked them specifically, but I hope they saw the change in my word choices going forward.

          Its absolutely not your responsibility to enlighten the ignorant, but if you’re up for it, please do keep trying! It really can make a difference.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I did something similar once too when I was 18–told a joke that really upset someone, and they schooled me good. Never again. I still cringe to think of it.

            1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

              I still feel terrible about it! I try to pay it forward by pointing out anything offensive that I hear in the same way that it was pointed out to me.

          2. aebhel*

            This is such a good point–it can often *feel* like you’re not making a difference, because people rarely respond well in the moment to being corrected (we all like to think we’d go ‘oh, gosh, I’m so sorry, I’ll never use that word again!’ but realistically… that’s often not what happens). But the correction can stick nonetheless.

        3. Annie Moose*

          Ahhhh calling romantic partners “friends”…

          My grandma, bless her heart, calls EVERYONE “friends”. Straight, gay, whatever, unless you’re married, you’re a “friend”. I don’t understand why! It’s so annoying! Also, it makes things really confusing when she’s talking about someone’s “friend” and it turns out they really are just a friend.

          But I digress. As annoying as it is when someone (intentionally or not) won’t recognize your relationships, it’s gotta be even more obnoxious when someone won’t recognize your SPECIFIC relationship, because of your sexuality.

          1. Agnodike*

            My grandmother has three categories: friend, fiancé(e), or spouse. She was very confused when my ex and I first moved in together as to whether this was tantamount to an engagement and thus elevated ex to fiancée status, or whether we were still “friends” until someone put a ring on it. The difference here is that she had the same confusion when my sister moved in with her boyfriend, whereas the OP’s boss seems not at all confused about the relationship statuses of the straight people in the office.

          2. AnotherAlison*

            My grandmas were the same way. They call our boyfriends “friends” until we had been dating them for years, were engaged, or had kids with them. : ) My grandma is 90, and the other one is deceased so maybe that was generational. I have no idea what is up with that.

          3. Former Retail Manager*

            Is your grandmother over 70? If so, this is the polite way to refer to a non-spouse if one is from that generation. My mother is 71 and has only in the last 5 years or so become comfortable enough to really call people’s relationships what they are publicly. Privately, she had no issue referring to other’s relationships for what they really were, but it simply wasn’t polite to do so publicly for members of that generation.

            1. 2e*

              This is interesting – before my boyfriend and I visited my grandparents so they could meet, my grandpa called me to privately ask whether to introduce my boyfriend as my “boyfriend” or my “friend.” I found it odd because my grandfather knows he is my boyfriend and generally refers to him accordingly. I didn’t know, though, that he was planning to introduce us to all his friends at his assisted living facility. Perhaps he was concerned about how the introduction would be received by his peers in that age group and I just didn’t pick up on the reason behind his question. But no one seemed too scandalized!

              1. Former Retail Manager*

                I have to give the older folks credit…many have gotten with the times to some degree.

                The attitude of that generation was very much one of keeping private things private…..relationship status, financial struggles, misbehaving children, substance abuse, marital struggles….all of these things simply weren’t discussed. Everyone was a “friend” and everything was “great” all the time (at least publicly)… mother now concedes that it was utterly ridiculous to be so fake/polite all the time.

          4. Jennifer M.*

            My dad refers to my sister’s boyfriend as her friend. Maybe he thinks that because she is 37 and he is 45 the term “boy”friend is odd. We don’t know, she can’t be bothered to correct him, and we just roll our eyes at him.

            1. fposte*

              I really don’t like “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” for adults myself; it sounds to me like they’re dating a teenager. But we don’t have any good alternative in U.S. English, and I’m certainly not going to evade somebody’s preference.

              1. LBK*

                Agreed. I feel a little old for “boyfriend,” but I’ve never been a fan of the most common alternative, “partner”. We’re not opening a law firm together.

                1. SarahTheEntwife*

                  My sister uses “manfriend”, which I quite like, though it’s maybe a bit whimsical for some offices.

                2. LBK*

                  Ha, see, and I use “manfriend” to mean someone you’re casually dating, ie a man who’s a special friend but not a boyfriend.

                3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Hahahaha. I like “partner,” but it tends to signal that you’re in a serious, committed, monogamous relationship that may or may not be memorialized by marriage… which is sometimes an overstatement. There are definitely relationships on the dating spectrum that are “less serious” (sorry, clunky wording) than a “partner” but more serious than a “boyfriend.” I hope someone writes a thinkpiece on alternative titles for romantic relationships for post-30s adults.

                4. fposte*

                  @PCBH–people try every few years, and they never seem to stick. I’m okay with the death of POSSLQ and its ilk but I liked “significant other”; it was gender neutral and usefully encapsulated a relationship that may not involve living together and may not actually be sexual.

                5. Dara*

                  I like “datemate.” Gender neutral and a little less of a mouthful than “significant other.”

                6. Snazzy Hat*

                  In my opinion (id est, why I use the term for my significant other), “partner” is a short alternative to “person who I will eventually marry and with whom I’ve discussed wedding ideas but we haven’t set a wedding date so we aren’t engaged and therefore s/he is not my fiance(e)”.

                  I admit I feel a little weird when I say it and immediately think about it in a business sense.

              2. Whats In A Name*

                yes, at 37 and 48 we are partners. Because “boyfriend” is too juvenile for our relationship. Our families refers to us as “friends” when introducing us because they find partner oddly formal. Some people introduce us as husband and wife, even though they know we aren’t, because its easiest for them. It’s just all around a crap shoot and quite frankly as long as people acknowledge we’re together I don’t care what they call us.

                But one thing no one has ever referred to us to is roommates and we’ve been living together for 6 years. I definitely think the same-sex relationship is what is causing this boss’ behavior, but I can’t tell if OP has addressed it directly and boss is refusing or if OP hasn’t and boss is just being inconsiderate for reasons that could range of idiocy and close-mindedness to not wanting to out OP (even though OP does state the relationship is known).

              3. Lisa from scenic Michigan*

                I also do not like boy/girlfriend to refer to a significant other. I’m 45, not in junior high. I usually refer to “my fella.” It’s still mooshy, but it’s my brand of mooshy? If I was dating a woman, I’d go with “my gal.” On paperwork that says relationship, I put significant other.

                It’s just a failing of the English language that we don’t have good words to describe common adult relationships.

            2. Breda*

              My mom does this for both her sister’s boyfriend and MY sister’s boyfriend! It’s especially weird when, say, my aunt has brought her boyfriend and his adult children on vacation and they’ve all rented a house together. It definitely signals some discomfort – I do not think my mother is best pleased that my sister is living with her boyfriend, for example. But she also doesn’t disapprove of the relationships or want to pretend they doesn’t exist.

              But “roommate” is very specific coded language that has been used to erase same-sex relationships for a very long time, so that’s a different thing altogether. It comes with extra baggage that “friend” doesn’t.

          5. Paige Turner*

            I knew at least one person in her twenties who used “friend” this way, too. I think some of it is regional/cultural word choice. The only time someone has ever called my long-term boyfriend my “friend” was when I was waiting with him at the ER* of a Catholic hospital.

            *He’s fine :)

          6. kb*

            Haha, my Grandma does the opposite and calls everyone I hang out with my boyfriend or girlfriend. I know it’s common to say girlfriend about girls who are just friends (eg. – I was hanging out with my girlfriends last night), but sometimes she’ll ask, “How’s your bf Tom?”
            “Um, my married boss Tom is good.”

            1. Nic*

              From personal experience, this is something that older Southern gentlemen (or those who view themselves as such) do. I am female, and my female friends were “friends”, but any male in relationship to me was a “boyfriend” regardless of relationship status.

          7. Tau*

            Fun fact of the day: this is actually how it works in German. The word for “friend” also means “boyfriend/girlfriend”, and you distinguish via how you use it. “My friend” is romantic, “a friend of mine” is platonic.

            That said, I highly doubt OP’s boss is a very confused German speaker.

          8. Dankar*

            My partner (Boyfriend? I prefer partner.) and I will have been together for 10 years this May. Just last year, his father upgraded me from friend to girlfriend. As a bonus, his mother told him that she figures I’ll be “sticking around for a while, I guess.”

            Refusing to acknowledge someone’s significant other or partner is generally a way to de-legitimize the relationship or suggest a lack of seriousness to it. OP2 should absolutely push back however she can because this is almost always a way to normalize bigotry in the case of LGBTQ people.

            1. Snazzy Hat*

              As a bonus, his mother told him that she figures I’ll be “sticking around for a while, I guess.”

              You have my empathy. My s.o. moved across the country to live with me. We had been friends for five years before that. His third day in town, he met my parents; both knew he was moving in with me. At dinner, my mother asked him how long he was “planning on visiting”.

              Happy anniversary, by the way!

        4. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          “When I’ve tried to explain to people before that referring to someone’s partner as their “friend” or “roommate” is offensive, they’ll tell me I’m wrong, and that I’m being too sensitive.”

          Why, oh why, do people in a majority have such a hard time taking minorities – women, LGBTQ+, ethnic minorities, gender nonconforming, whatever – at their word? As a cis, white, hetero male, I’ve never had too much trouble just defaulting to believing people when they tell me that people are dicks to them, or that I’m being a dick to them, and reacting appropriately, by endeavoring not to be such a dick in the future. The “no, I think I will inform them that they’re being too sensitive or otherwise minimize what they’re telling me” option literally does not occur to me. If someone as generally privileged and clueless as I tend to be can get there, nobody really has any excuse to be dicks.

          1. PlainJane*

            Thank you. I was reading a comment thread on an article about sexism in Silicon Valley, and almost every male commenter said something along the lines of, “Where is the data? We shouldn’t take what women say at face value without data?” Now I’m a big fan of data > anecdote, but seriously, when hundreds or thousands of women are reporting similar experiences, 1) that actually is data (though not statistically significant), and 2) why do you need data to support not being an ass? Surely you can check your own behavior and make modifications without a peer-reviewed article or double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial as justification?

      2. Kj*

        Yep, I agree. It is not OP’s job to correct time and time again- boss needs to do the right thing and use the terms OP prefers. OP needs to be direct and say what terms she prefers if she hasn’t already, just to get rid of boss’s possible excuses of “I didn’t know” or “I didn’t want to out you.” (Both are possible but unlikely).

        I sometimes work with people who are in the process of transitioning gender- and sometimes, due to age and being in the process of figuring themselves out, this involves multiple name and pronoun changes in a short amount of time. Since I am older, this can be hard on my brain, especially if I have known them for years by another name/pronoun. But I try my darndist not to misname or misgender them. I always tell folks to correct me if I use the wrong name or pronoun and if I make a mistake, I apologize and correct it myself. That is what a mistake looks like-you try not to make it, you are open to feedback about it AND you apologize when you get it wrong.

    3. copy run start*

      I’d refer to someone’s partner as a roommate unless I was 100% positive it was a safe and okay to mention. I would hate to accidentally out someone to a person who went on to make it an issue. I dream of the day when no one cares.

      1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

        If I’m ever unsure about outing someone, then I refer to their partner is the partner using gender-neutral pronouns. This protects them without erasing them.

        1. AnotherAnon*

          Yeah, me too. I find it helpful to ask who someone’s okay with being out to (and timescales for that) whenever someone comes out to me. But at work, until I know for sure? I’d be using gender-neutral pronouns and probably saying “partner” instead of “girlfriend/boyfriend”. I could make a case for “roommate”, actually, if I was sure that the person a) wasn’t out to the workplace and b) never mentioned any partner in the workplace. Though that doesn’t sound like the case here.

        2. Gaia*

          Here’s the thing, though.

          If someone is not out at work referring to their partner as their partner is going to out them. There is no way I hear “oh Sarah and her partner Emily” and don’t assume Sarah and Emily are in a relationship.

          Now, what the OP’s boss is doing is really messed up and needs to stop. But I can see how she could, possibly, be coming from a place of protection if she thinks the OP may not be out to everyone at work. She should still follow OP’s preference, but I can see how someone could do this out of misguided attempts to help.

          1. Agnodike*

            That’s why, if your concern is about not outing someone, Emily’s name just becomes “Sarah’s partner” or “Sarah’s spouse” and she gets gender-neutral pronouns. That acknowledges that Emily is in a romantic relationship, but doesn’t compromise her safety in an unsafe environment.

            “Oh, are you going to see the new James Bond movie? Emily told me she and her partner saw it last weekend. Apparently Emily’s partner is a huge Bond fan.” No erasure, no disclosure.

            1. fposte*

              In a lot of the U.S., “partner” is going to suggest same-sex; it’s just not as common for domestic relationships in general here as it is in the UK and elsewhere.

              1. OhNo*

                It only suggests that if you exclusively use it for same-sex couples. If you use it for everyone, people will pick up very quickly on the fact that gender-neutral language is just your default.

                For example, I use gender-neutral pronouns in conversation for everybody who isn’t present (unless I know that they have a preference). My coworkers just got used to it. Now I don’t have to worry about outing my nonbinary trans friends, because everyone I talk about with my coworkers is “they”.

                If you get in the habit of using “partner” for everyone, then it won’t out people. It’ll just be another quirk of speaking that you have, and nobody will even notice.

                1. fposte*

                  That may long-term work for changing how people respond to your specific speech patterns, but I don’t think it’s in the U.S. an automatic solution to the concern about outing somebody until the usage is more general.

                2. Naruto*

                  The problem is that it’s a cultural norm here to only use it for same-sex couples. So even if you use it to refer to both same- and opposite-sex couples, people may not pick up on that if they’re aren’t paying careful attention.

              2. Agnodike*

                Thanks for pointing that out; I didn’t realise that. That does add an additional wrinkle. Here “partner” is the default term for all relationships regardless of gender configuration.

                What do different-gender people call a partner who’s more than a boy/girlfriend but not legally married to them?

                1. Gadfly*

                  I’ve been seeing a lot of people move to using fiance/ee for that even when there are no plans to file legal documents.

              3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Yeah, I didn’t realize that wide swathes of the country use “partner” exclusively to refer to same-sex relationships (or business partners) until I lived outside of coastal cities. But I agree that if you are in a coastal city where “partner” doesn’t automatically connote LGBT, it’s a more respectful term to use that preserves a person’s privacy.

                1. turquoisecow*

                  My grandfather-in-law was at a wedding or a party many years ago when two men were introduced to him as Fergus and his Partner, or something like that. Having apparently never met a same-sex couple, Gramps immediately inquired what business they were in together.

        3. LBK*

          Sorry but this is the oldest trick in the book and it’s not particularly subtle anymore, especially with our culture being more analytical about word choice these days. No one ever refers to someone’s opposite-sex partner with gender-neutral terms, so it’s pretty apparent what the implication is when you do it. It’s barely less obvious than just being explicit about it to anyone who thinks about it for more than a second.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            That’s actually not true for many parts of the country (i.e., certain socioeconomic classes in large cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, NYC, etc.). That said, I agree that the majority of the country (based on geography/land-mass) thinks “partner” or gender-neutral language = same-sex.

            1. LBK*

              I’ve lived in Boston for the last 6 years and my comment’s been congruent with my experiences here, so not sure I agree with your assertion, unless I’ve just never interacted with the socioeconomic class you’re referencing (and I’m not certain who you mean there).

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I mean college-educated professionals/white-collar-workers in social science-y and humanities-oriented fields. I’ve found that even in “liberal cities,” non-same-sex-referent-partner-speak doesn’t tend to exist among working class and blue-collar folks/neighborhoods (and sometimes doesn’t arise in STEM fields).

                1. LBK*

                  Hmm, this pretty much describes my entire social circle excluding the “social science/humanities” part and it doesn’t match my experience at all. If the industry piece is key, that seems like a really niche subset where that linguistic quirk would be the norm.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  That’s really strange. Literally all my friends and their friends use “partner” and gender-neutral terms to refer equally to same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

                3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Sorry, I realized that sounds rude/invalidating. I just meant that it’s strange that we’re coming from similar social groups and have had such disparate experiences.

                4. Elizabeth H.*

                  I, too am in Boston and a lot of people I know will use “partner” to describe a heterosexual relationship, so I’d agree with Princess CBH here. It doesn’t strike me as unusual or as something that people only reserve for same-sex partners.

                  Personally, the term like that really grates on my ears – I think it sounds totally unromantic and aggressively PC – but IRL I keep this opinion to myself and will follow someone’s lead in referring to his or her “partner” if that is the terminology the couple uses. Personally I would tend to say boyfriend/girlfriend no matter the age or relationship duration (or whether it’s an opposite or same sex couple). I know it seems juvenile to some people but it doesn’t really to me.

          2. F Manley*

            I go out of my way to use gender-neutral language for my spouse, my siblings, and so forth, whenever possible, and I am in, as they say, an opposite-sex marriage. I prefer gender-neutral language in general, and I like contributing to normalize it both in general and to help out those who need it more than I do.

            1. LBK*

              As fposte says above, we’re a long way from individuals turning the tide of our culture’s linguistic interpretation of gender-neutral language as a whole.

              1. Gandalf the Nude*

                You said no one does this, so F Manley was correcting you. There are absolutely places and people and circles where this is the done thing and doesn’t carry that implication even if that’s not how the majority of the country works. I doubt it was your intention, but you’re coming across as poo-pooing folks like F and me who are making efforts to normalize that language convention.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Yeah, this is what I’m pushing back on, as well. In particular, this quote: “No one ever refers to someone’s opposite-sex partner with gender-neutral terms.”

                2. seejay*

                  Yep, lots of people refer to their opposite sex partner in gender neutral terms for reasons. I have an opposite sex partner that’s my “partner” because the gender-loaded terms don’t fit. He’s not a boyfriend (we feel we’re past that stage and too old for it at this point) but we’re not married, nor planning on it or engaged (so no fiance or spouse or husband or anything like that) or even living together. The best description that fits is more serious than boyfriend but not with the commitment/legal entanglements is “partner”. I’ve had very few people assume it meant same-sex partner as well since it’s become common enough for unmarried people in serious enough, yet not married/living together relationships.

                3. AnonAnalyst*

                  @seejay This is pretty much our situation too. My opposite sex partner and I may get married at some point, but we have no plans to in the foreseeable future. But we’ve been together for 11 years and have lived together for 10, so “boyfriend” doesn’t really seem like a great fit either. “Significant other” is okay and I’ll sometimes use that, but “partner” is the best fit, frankly, so it’s what I use most often.

                4. LBK*

                  Sorry, I didn’t expect “no one” to be taken so literally; thought it was more clear from my tone that I meant it as hyperbole.

                5. LBK*

                  As I ponder it, I think some of this also depends on your age and/or the age of the people you’re talking about. Middle-aged or older straight couples being “partners” sounds a little more normal to my ear, because at that point “boyfriend/girlfriend” is definitely weird. But if someone in their 30s said it, I’d definitely assume it was a same-sex couple because I just don’t hear straight couples using that terminology.

                6. NB in NH*

                  LBK: “But if someone in their 30s said it, I’d definitely assume it was a same-sex couple because I just don’t hear straight couples using that terminology.”
                  You know what happens when you assume… ;)

                  That said, it’s seriously possible that you may have assumed incorrectly in the past, and/or not had full information. I’m in my 30s in the Greater Boston area and in a relationship that reads as straight (AFAB genderqueer + AMAB genderfluid, but neither of us is publicly out about gender stuff, and as a couple we present opposite-sex despite not being opposite-gender), and I refer to my partner as such. They don’t care what pronouns I use to refer to them, but as for describing their role in our relationship, ‘boyfriend’ would be unremarkable but ‘girlfriend’ or ‘enbyfriend’ would require a lot more explanation than is necessarily work-appropriate. ‘Partner’ lets me honor their actual identification without outing anyone. (Well, my coworkers know I’m queer, because my previous relationship was with a woman, and that’s no problem. But nonbinary identity still doesn’t feel safe to mention.)

          3. MoinMoin*

            Not refuting your point, but before we were married I (a woman) would refer to my husband as my domestic partner and even now I often refer to him as my spouse. Occasionally for political reasons, but mostly because it seems the most accurate representation in some situations.

          4. Mephyle*

            No one ever refers to someone’s opposite-sex partner with gender-neutral terms. Unless you know this one friend of mine who sharply corrects anyone who calls her spouse her “wife”. Their preferred term is most emphatically “spouse”.

            1. Mephyle*

              My comment wasn’t as relevant as I meant it to be, since you were talking about opposite-sex partners and I was talking about a same-sex couple. Oops, never-mind.

      2. sstabeler*

        To be honest, If I had the chance, I’d (discreety) ask them how they want you to refer to their boy/gilrfriend.

      3. Koko*

        I don’t know if it’s an age/generational thing but this wouldn’t even occur to me because I can’t even imagine a closeted adult living with a partner. Maybe in the 90s adults were having secret relationships, but nowadays (at least in the east coast city where I live) the closet is for teenagers and confused people trapped in unfulfilling marriages. If a coworker introduced me to their live-in girlfriend it would never even cross my mind that that could potentially be a secret unless she explicitly told me it was secret, anymore than if she’d introduced me to her live-in boyfriend I wouldn’t assume it was secret unless she told me it was!

        1. No, please*

          When I was growing up in the 90’s, in Oklahoma, I was told to say “roommate” when referring to my mom’s girlfriend. But this was because teachers, or anyone really, could have reported her to CPS-and it could have been bad. Discrimination is still rampant there. Maybe the boss really is trying to not out the OP. Or maybe boss is in denial.

        2. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

          Koko – I also live in a large east coast city, and this would not cross my mind either!

          That said, I understand what people are saying (not condoning/agreeing – I just do get it). I think if I’m outside of my city (and not in another known LGBT friendly place) I am a bit more cautious about my language.

        3. Future Homesteader*

          It definitely varies by geography (and has changed drastically in the last 10-20 years). I grew up attending affirming churches in the Midwest, but our church bulletin every week had a notice in it reminding the congregation that many people who were out at church were not out in the wider community, and asking them to refrain from talking about anyone’s orientation outside of church unless given an explicit okay. When I moved to the East Coast, it took me a while to feel comfortable introducing someone as a girlfriend/wife to a third party, because it felt like I might be outing them (even though consciously I knew darn well they were out).

          1. Future Homesteader*

            Sorry, I meant to add – I am in no way assuming this is the boss’s case. The boss may just be a jerk. Just adding my experience. :-)

        4. ZTwo*

          It really depends on what you mean by “closeted”. There are lots of people who are out to friends, but not family or coworkers. Or who are out to coworkers but not their family. Or who wouldn’t deny it if it came up, but don’t necessarily want it talked about at the office. Or don’t mind coworkers knowing but are circumspect about management. This goes doubly for trans people, who might disclose to a coworker friend about it, but otherwise want to be as stealth as possible at the office.

          People can even be closeted to themselves until fairly late in life! There are lots of good reasons (safety, fear of discrimination, etc) that even people here on the east coast might be wholly or situationally closeted. It’s not super helpful for those people to delegate the closet /not being out to the realm of teenagers or people trapped in marriages.

          You don’t have to assume every coworker in a same-sex relationship is in this situation, but a good rule of thumb is to gauge who they talk to about it. If it’s everyone, nah, probably not. If it’s just you or another friend, best to check before asking them about their Pride plans at a company meeting.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            A big +1 to this. And I just want to reemphasize that there are many parts of the country where LGBT-discrimination is allowed/endorsed and where being out can subject you to life-threatening violence. So being in the closet, or being in the closet at work but out in your personal/intimate life, is still very much a thing that people feel they must do for their safety and self-preservation. It doesn’t mean they’re immature.

            Even in the super liberal Bay Area, Tim Cook was not “out” at all levels of his life as recently as a few years ago. Everyone in the industry/business and area knew he identified as LGBT, but apparently that wasn’t widespread knowledge outside of those circles.

            1. seejay*

              Even in the super liberal Bay area, we just had a serious violent homophobic attack a few months ago after the election. :(

              It’s supposed to be one of the safest cities for LGBT here.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Yeah, it’s sadly not safe :( One need only consider Gwen Araujo to realize we have a very very long way to go, still.

                1. seejay*

                  Oh my god, I didn’t know about that case and I just looked it up and read about and now I’m about to cry. :(

                  (I only moved to California in 2008 and while I try to keep up with things, I don’t always catch all of them and that one slipped through my regular reading. I’m horrified.)

                2. seejay*

                  Oh no, don’t worry about traumatizing me in that sense… I read a lot of really questionable stuff in general (I have a fascination with crime in general, have had since I was a kid). I’ve always been one to be on the side of the bullied and unfairly treated though, and over the past few months have been far more involved in a lot of social activism things than I ever have before (I primarily focused on animals before). LGBT rights has been something I’ve been involved with for a long time though, and moreso since moving to the Bay, and these past few months have been… difficult to say the least. I haven’t been as involved with a lot of activism the way I’d like to for personal reasons, and dealing with the frustration and anger has been hard as a result. :(

                  No worries though, the more I know, the more I’m informed.

          2. Koko*

            This is a great point and very sad that even with all the progress in the last couple of decades that it’s been so uneven and still has so far yet to go.

          3. Tau*

            Yes, that comment sat badly with me as well. Who I am out to about what is a confusing mess, and I’m in a lefty European place where I’m not particularly worried about hate crimes or anything. Personally, although I wouldn’t be happy with someone turning a partner into a roommate, I would also not be happy about someone I’ve come out to blithely assuming that means they can out me to all and sundry.

            And +1000 about all this going doubly for trans people.

          4. JM60*

            So many people don’t realize that coming out is a process. Gay people have to constantly decide whether or not to put themselves to others all the time.

            Regarding people still being in the closet, I find that people tend to vastly underestimate how prevalent homophobia is. Nearly every other person is homophobic enough to want to deny same sex couples the right to marry. Just image every other person thinking so little of your relationship that they don’t think you should have the right to marry! Additionally, a lot of those who are politicly in favor of marriage equally don’t really see gay relationships as equal to straight ones.

          5. D.A.R.N.*

            Yeah, coming out is never just one step, it’s constant. Every single person you ever meet has to be judged in this “can I come out here? will I be attacked for this? what if this person’s a violent homophobe instead of just a regular homophobe?” etc. It’s a never-ending thing. :T

        5. Saturnine*

          Austin is an incredibly open-minded city despite being in the middle of Texas, but even here I consistently hear about gay friends being harassed on the street when walking with their same-sex partners. Being out can be dangerous no matter where you are.

      4. AnotherAlison*

        An openly gay friend referred to his boyfriend as his roommate. My cousin is not legally married to her partner (and have not done a non-legal ceremony, either), but they refer to each other as “wife.”

        If the OP referred to her girlfriend as girlfriend, I would pick up on that and do the same, but in my experience it has not been clear cut what you “should” call someone’s domestic partner. . .same sex or otherwise. Even opposite sex partners sometimes prefer partner vs. boyfriend/girlfriend, and some are actually fiances.

        If I’m not your personal friend, I don’t think it’s crazy that I don’t know the nuances of your domestic partnership, but once you’ve expressed your preference, people should abide by that.

        1. not really a lurker anymore*

          Yeah, my office mate refers to her partner as her roommate. My office mate is quietly out. But at work, we use ‘roommate’ because that’s what the person involved is using. If she used partner, girlfirend or spouse (or even sweetie as she and I are Doctor Who fans), we’d follow along with that. But something like “my boo” wouldn’t be used.

    4. Not Australian*

      This, exactly. I had a gay friend who was very nervous about ‘coming out’ at work (with some justification, as we had a homophobic boss) and who always referred to his partner as his ‘housemate’ when he wasn’t 100% sure of the likely response. I’d been wearing an AIDS ribbon on my coat for about a year before he very nervously told me that (a) he was gay and (b) this guy was actually his other half, which of course I knew anyway … but figured he would tell me when he was ready. The charitable assumption here would be that the boss is erring on the side of caution, although obviously OP is in a better position to judge this for herself.

    5. Lora*

      From my very confused, lived her whole life in conservative states mother: “girlfriend” was a term that often was used to refer to any female friends – like, the kind you sit around with drinking cheap wine and complaining about work and whatnot. “I’ve got a date with my girlfriend” would mean something more like, “we are going to brunch to drink bloody marys and have girl talk about shoes and Ikea and botox” to her. It took her a looooooong time to accept that my lesbian friends did indeed have wives, not “special friends” after she moved to Massachusetts where gay marriage has been legal for many many years now; she got the whole “civil union” thing in her head and somehow that stuck rather than actual marriage. And she WAS worried about people not being out to everyone, and she knew that some of my friends had gone through a rough time with their families so didn’t want to say anything that might get them in trouble. It just took about three years of hearing lesbian women referring to their partners as Wife before it sank in. Of course, she is 75 and it’s harder for her to adapt to what the “young” people are doing these days, but still.

      1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

        My MIL still refers to her ‘girlfriend’ or her ‘girlfriends’ and she is not talking about a romantic partner; these are just other women who she is very close to, but she is not in any way in relationships with them. It was a culture shock for me the first time I heard her, in front of my FIL, talk about her girlfriend…. but it’s just a linguistic phrase to her.

      2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        Hey, at least she’s putting in the effort to adapt. I know people a decade younger than her who are still reacting to any mention of gay marriage with pitch-perfect Rush Limbaugh impressions.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        My friends still say “girlfriend” to refer to their non-romantic kinship yaya sisterhood. But they use “ladyfriend” to refer to female same-sex partners.

      4. turquoisecow*

        My best friend in high school (of the same gender) and I were quite close and secretly experimenting sexually. Her mother used to refer to me as her “girlfriend” and she meant it as the type described here – friends who are girls, where you have brunch together on the weekends and gossip about men. My friend was horrified and thought her mother might be on to us and would freak out and correct her mother whenever she used it. (This ended up not being a long term issue, though, because this friend and I stopped communicating after high school ended.)

    6. Princess Carolyn*

      I think it would be helpful for OP to go into the situation assuming this best-case-scenario is what’s happening. It’s better for relationships to assume the best until you’ve confirmed otherwise. It is quite believable that OP’s boss really is an ass who’s being weird about her own discomfort with lesbians, so I don’t want OP to think we’re not taking her concern seriously or taking her at her word as far as the facts. Assuming good intentions is just a better way to enter a potentially difficult conversation.

  10. HannahS*

    #4 Honestly, I’d probably find it mildly irritating, but not offensive. I don’t drink, and it makes me really aware of all the times people recommend alcohol . It can get tiring. Sort of like having people constantly recommend barbecue joints when you’re a vegetarian. But no one means anything bad by it, especially if they’re someone that hardly knows you. Shrug, and don’t go if you don’t want to.

    OP, if you’re a non-drinker that’s new to environments where most people drink, understand that regular alcohol consumption is considered very, very normal, and so is talking about it at work. It *would* be unprofessional to talk about binge-drinking at the office, but talking about this great bar or that craft beer is something to just get used to.

    1. Dizzy Steinway*

      I don’t drink much as I’m on meds that don’t mix well with alcohol. I abstained completely for a few years until I got used to them. I still like a nice pub or a swanky hotel bar.

      I think the HR person could seem overly casual, but tone of voice gets lost on email. I have seen stories on here of employers having an issue with drinking due to religion but most employers wouldn’t blink twice at this.

      1. HannahS*

        I think the issues we read about happen more when someone who doesn’t or can’t drink is being heavily pressured, but yeah, this kind of casual recommendation of one specific bar on one occasion isn’t inappropriate.

        I do think that why a person abstains from something really informs their comfort level, though. Like, I don’t eat pork because I keep kosher but I’m not a vegetarian, so being in barbecue joints doesn’t bother me (no moral discomfort). But plenty of vegans are going to be uncomfortable. I’m uncomfortable around alcohol for the bunch of reasons that made me teetotal, not because I medically can’t participate (which is also true, but happened recently). But ultimately, this was a very normal (if annoying in tone) email.

    2. Blue*

      Also, depending on the field or job, it is SO SO common to be expected to either attend a business dinner or take a client/business contact to dinner/drinks, even moreso during travel to conferences etc. that are meant in part for the business networking. I really almost can’t tell what the OP finds inappropriate or unprofessional– is it the recommendation for a good bar or the LOL?

      1. neverjaunty*

        But “the hotel has a great bar LOL” really isn’t the same as “if you need somewhere to take Ms. Client for dinner, try this place”.

    3. MK*

      I have consumed little to no alcohol for over 2 years and I would love a recommendation for a good bar, because I still go to them. Anyway, what makes a “great” bar has little to do with the alcohol, which is pretty standard everywhere. This seems a pretty mundane recommendation for an after-hours activity to me, but the OP seems to have taken it as an incentive to get wasted.

      1. HannahS*

        Yeah. I mean, I’m a non-drinker who’s uncomfortable in bars, but regardless of one’s comfort around alcohol, casual discussions about drinking/bars/cocktail recipes, etc. at work are very, very common, and it’s not inappropriate. Unless she’s a recovering alcoholic and needs people to not mention drinking (and I don’t think that’s the case), it’s just something to get used to.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          Even if she’s a recovering alcoholic, her sobriety is her sole responsibility. She can’t demand that no one ever mention drinking- and the treatment facilities/groups would make this clear to her.

      2. caryatis*

        “What makes a “great” bar has little to do with the alcohol, which is pretty standard everywhere.”

        Nope. For a drinker, what makes a good bar has a LOT to do with the alcohol. Have you ever tried to order a Manhattan in a dive bar? Or if you want craft beer and you go to a place where your choices are Miller Lite or Bud Lite, you’re not going to be happy. (Or vice versa: if you want a vodka tonic with no fuss, you won’t be happy with the fancy cocktail bar.)

        1. anonderella*

          idk, I’d be perfectly fine at a bar with not-my-first-choice of drinks, but a great vibe, great decorations, great locations near other activities (ie, on the beach or downtown), decent pool tables, a good crowd, pleasant bar tenders, fun karaoke, etc and in any combination.
          You may be right and I may just not be a picky drinker (testament to that: I drank only PBR for years bc I was broke, and I don’t know what a Manhattan is to this day), but I know it’s not all about the alcohol for all people. I had a huge friend group back home that went to the same bar a few times a week because every night was something different (comedy, open-mike, karaoke, etc) and the only decent beer was PBR. The only question — can or pitcher? (oh memories)

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think it depends on what you think “great” refers to :) For some folks it’s the quality of the drinks, for others it’s the atmosphere.

        3. MK*

          Ehh, I don’t think I have ever been in a bar that doesn’t make a pretty standard cocktail, like a Manhattan, or doesn’t have a decent selection of the standard beer brands. If by drinker, you mean the equivelant of a gourmet, sure, it’s probably a different story. For what it’s worth, I am refering to what is in my country an average bar. And I have never had an issue when ordering something simple, like a glass of wine, even at the most pretentious bars.

      3. SarahTheEntwife*

        Ok, now I’m curious — what does one do in bars if not drink or possibly pick up a date?

        1. StudentPilot*

          Eat. When I travel alone I prefer to eat in pubs/bars because they tend to be less formal feeling than restaurants.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Yes. I hate eating alone in restaurants, and yes it’s true that sometimes you get worse service. Some of the best meals I had in Britain were in pubs (not Wetherspoons, though that’s where I had haggis). Whenever I go visit Auntie, me and her and her bff always go to this one very traditional pub in Richmond and eat.

          1. Pint of Water*

            Weirdly, the bars and pubs near me also often have comfier seating (sofas, padded banquette booths, armchairs), bigger tables, and more quiet & privacy than the busy, noisy, fast-food-y coffee shops. And the pubs often have gardens too! So if you don’t mind the spilled-beer smell, they can be really nice places, especially in the mid-afternoon lull.

            1. LBK*

              Yeah, bars are more specifically designed for unstructured hanging out, whereas restaurants are designed for you to sit, eat a meal and leave. I usually go to a bar if I have time to kill while hanging out by myself. Cafes are another alternative but seating tends to be harder to find.

        2. ClaireUK*

          I rarely drink alcohol but still enjoy going to bars with friends. If I were away on my own on a trip might choose to take a book to the bar and drink a non-alcoholic drink, or, if I was feeling wild, have a Baileys. Sometimes it is nice not to just hang out in one’s room.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, a lot of bar-going isn’t much different from a café–it’s hanging out with people and the substance-consuming is secondary. (It gets even more blurred when the weather warms up and it’s all outside tables–we’ve got one street where the bar tables and cafe tables kind of intermingle, in fact.)

        3. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Have a non-alcoholic drink or snack, sit at the bar, shmooze with the bartender, or simply watch the world go by. If I’m traveling alone, I like to read in a bar sometimes. I will go to a bar– especially a hotel bar– and have a Diet Coke. Bars are not just for boozing and fornicating.

        4. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

          Watch a sporting event with fellow fans, enjoy the music/vibe while sipping a mock-tail, have an appetizer or even a meal (some bars have great food as well), chat with another solo traveler completely platonically, enjoy having a place where its appropriate to sit for an hour or two and read a book (a place that’s not your silent, sterile hotel room or home/apartment that you see everyday).

          It depends on the bar itself – not all of these things are appropriate/comfortable at every bar.

        5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I have done many things in bars that do not relate to drinking or hitting on people, including:

          Watching sports games, usually with friends (I don’t own a TV/have cable)
          Studying / grabbing dinner (I used to do this throughout law school)
          Pub trivia / Pool / Darts
          Socializing/catching up because we all live in shoebox apartments with inadequate social space
          Catch a live music act or support a friend at an open mic
          Poetry slam
          Concocting non-alcoholic drinks that look like alcoholic drinks as cover

        6. MK*

          Spend time with friends in a congenial atmosphere? I mean, if you want an evening out with friends and don’t want to eat a full meal (or have another activity, like a movie), where do you go, other than a bar/pub type of place?

    4. Phyllis B*

      I would take it in the spirit that Alision mentioned. It’s no different than saying the hotel has a great restaurant or good gym. The LOL; maybe a little strange unless you know her pretty well, but so many people use that (including me) that it wouldn’t even register. I don’t really think she was saying, “Here’s a great place to get wasted. You won’t have far to go to your room.”

    5. Annie Moose*

      Yeah, I feel the same way. It’d be nice if drinking people would be a little more conscious that not everyone drinks, but in general, most people do drink and it’s pretty normal to discuss drinking in a casual environment. (craft beers are a popular topic at my work, plus a couple people brew their own beer) Yes, it’s weird when people discuss this stuff and you’re like “I have absolutely no idea what’s going on or how you could possibly care this much about alcohol”, but as long as no one’s trying to pressure you into drinking or mocking you for not drinking, I don’t think it’s an issue.

      In this case, I agree that the HR person was likely just trying to be friendly and didn’t consider that the recipient might not drink. Worse comes to worse, maybe they have good quesadillas. (I had the BEST quesadilla of my life in a bowling alley bar once… I’ve been chasing the dream ever since.)

      1. caryatis*

        Yeah, I see what the HR person said as no different than “try the hotel restaurant, they have good quesadillas!” Not everyone likes or can eat quesadillas, but it would be silly to get offended by a well-intentioned travel tip.

      2. caryatis*

        Yeah, it’s no different than saying “try the hotel restaurant, they have good quesadillas.” Not everyone likes or can eat quesadillas, but it would be silly to get offended by a well-intentioned travel tip.

    6. Gadfly*

      Being from UT (may I assume everyone knows the laws are unique there? If not, google ‘Zion Curtain”) I have to admit I can think of a number of people I can picture reading that email and asking bemusedly “Can HR even say that?” Of course, in UT, HR probably would not let HR say that…

      1. Another Lurker*

        As someone who moved to Utah for work, I can 100% agree. I’m a professor, and on my first morning of teaching at the University of Utah, I brought coffee (it was 7:30 AM…). One of my students said she was surprised professors were allowed to drink coffee, as we were supposed to be good role models…

  11. AlaskaKT*

    OP #1 – You could always go drastic and cancel your cell. It’s what my husband did, because he hates phones. Granted his work did immediately give him a work phone, but not every company will do that. His goal was to stop paying for something he hated, so he got what he was after!

    Personally I had a boss who did that, and suddenly every vacation/weekend was spent somewhere out of cell service. I also started tacking on time to my time sheet every time I spent more than 5 mins a day answering questions while out of office (I was hourly). Payroll pretty quickly told my boss to not text/call unless it was an emergency. I was spending roughly 30 minutes to an hour outside my shift on the phone, every day. I also had non-availability due to my boss running my minutes/texts out. Then he suggested email! I couldn’t access my work email from home (private network) so I lucked out on that one!

    1. KR*

      I like this idea – OP are you exempt or does your workplace do billable hours??? Put in for compensation!!

    2. Justme*

      Except Alison has commented before that the expectation for availability and answering your phone is higher once you have a company cell versus your private cell. I think that could backfire on the OP.

      And also, not everyone can live without a cell phone.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think it’s important to note that the guidance you’ve linked is from the prior administration. Although it hasn’t been disabled/deleted, ostensibly the current administration does not support a conceptualization of gender/sex discrimination expansive enough to include LGBT identity (it will take awhile for them to role back the EEOC determinations, but they’re easier to change than court precedent).

      It’s also not entirely true that sexuality isn’t a protected class—it’s protected by some states at the state-level, but not by the federal government. So there’s no national-level protection. Nonetheless, there are several states that have adopted broader antidiscrimination protections than the feds.

      1. Dizzy Steinway*

        When I said not a protected class I meant nationally – sorry I wasn’t clear about that!

  12. Dizzy Steinway*

    I mean this in the kindest, gentlest way: yes, you are being too sensitive. Why do I think that? Because you went to: “I don’t matter enough.” And that’s an answer to something that’s just not the right question.

    For you, this felt incredibly personal. You wanted this raise, you worked hard, you advocated for yourself and then had to wait while they decided. It probably consumed your thoughts. Maybe it kept you awake at night.

    But I guarantee your employer wasn’t thinking about this solidly for two months. It might feel like they deliberately dithered and kept you waiting, but try to remember how many other things they had to deal with – including other requests for raises. It might also depend on the time of year e.g. when budgets are renewed.

    Having left the conversation feeling like you handled it well, your hopes were raised and then you had to wait and that sucked. But it doesn’t mean you don’t matter. Try to separate what you have evidence for (e.g. it took two months to hear back) and what you don’t (that must mean you don’t matter to them and are worthless). It’s unlikely they view it in such personal terms. It’s how you feel but feelings arent facts – however compellingly they can seem to be. This may yet be true but you can only tell by looking at the facts of how they treat you in general, not at how you feel.

    Waiting sucks. So does getting your hopes up. I’m sorry you’re feeling crushed by this. Try to be kind to yourself.

  13. Jamie*

    I’m not clear if it was the bar suggestion or the “LOL” #4 objected to.

    For #3 the boss’s behavior is offensive but I find it odd her boss would be bringing up OP’s girlfriend on what sounds like a regular basis, or at least more than once or twice, in the first place.

    1. ABC123*

      Yup, why is she talking about the employee’s partner?

      If I were the OP, I’d calmly state “Please refer to Jane as Jane or my partner.”, and then move on with the conversation, whenever the word roommate comes up. Regardless of the reason the boss is doing this.

      1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

        I can see why, because office conversation in my office does tend to mention people’s partners, boyfriends, girlfriends, and my roommate (who is…actually my roommate, man at garden centre. STOP SMIRKING), in contexts as diverse as “my partner took me on a llama walk for my birthday!” to “I need to get home, housemate is waiting,” to “didn’t you say your girlfriend was interested in X? You might want to show her Y.”

        1. Jamie*

          Agreed people tend to mention their partner in office conversation. The main thing I found odd is that I got the impression the boss was the one bringing up OP’s girlfriend. It sounded that way to me because in my experience people generally don’t repeat another person’s title in relation to the person you’re conversing with back to the person they’re talking to. For example if someone said ‘My girlfriend recently bought a new car’ I wouldn’t say ‘What kind of car did your girlfriend buy’. Instead I’d say ‘What kind of car did she be?’.

          Then again maybe I just put too much thought into it.

      1. Temperance*

        Because people are not always automatons? You really don’t see how it would naturally come up that LW and her girlfriend are going on vacation (for example)?

        1. WellRed*

          Sure I do, but “When my boss talks to me or anyone else about my girlfriend, she always calls her my roommate,” sounds like it’s a regular, ongoing thing. I’m not an automaton, but it would be weird to sit around and discuss my coworkers’ significant others regularly.

          1. Morning Glory*

            I think it depends on the office. In my office, SOs and kids come up semi-often, especially when discussing weekend plans, etc. My coworkers asked if my husband and I had any Valentine’s Day plans. I asked how a coworker’s wife had done in her marathon.

            It’s not like we all sit around all day talking about our personal lives, but it’s often a part of standard small-talk.

    2. LBK*

      Significant others coming up in conversation happens way more often than you think, you probably just don’t realize it because it doesn’t stand out when straight people do it. Start keeping a tally, you’d be surprised. Casual chat about weekend plans is a hotbed for it – guarantee half the responses will be “my wife and I are going to the movies” or “we’re going to see my boyfriend’s family” or something similar.

      1. Jamie*

        I don’t doubt people talk about their significant others on a somewhat regular basis. That isn’t what I found odd. What I found odd is that OP’s letter gave the impression her boss was the one bringing up OP’s girlfriend. Assuming OP’s boss and girlfriend don’t run in the same social group (not a stretch given the letter) that’s an odd thing to happen.

        Also, as someone who has very little interest in boring small talk, believe me when I say it is noticeable when people constantly talk about their opposite sex partners.

  14. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Not totally helpful for the lesbian LW here: but, married same sex couples may be able to do an “end-run” around their state’s lack of LGBT protections. That is, some jobs offer no discrimination protections based on family or marital status. This is usually meant for people with kids, but also could conceivably apply to those couples living in non-heterosexual families.

    It’s a pretty thin argument, so I wouldn’t litigate it, but it might hold up wherein one’s boss is being a jerk and knows there are no LGBT specific protections in that state- just making it known that being a jerk to someone in a same sex marriage is also discrimination based on family and marital status.

  15. MommyMD*

    Texting Godzilla is a raging lunatic. Reason does not work with people like this. Save every text. Go over her head and tell her superior that this behavior is abusive and has to be stopped. Include the fact that she is also a screamer.

  16. MommyMD*

    You’ve been posting a lot of content lately and it is varied and interesting. Thank you.

  17. KV*

    OP #2, yoooo, if you have protection to push back against this, you should. I get not being able to if you’re in a state without protections, as I’m in a position where I’m closeted at work due to living in a homophobic country. Calling my wife my roommate irks me enough as it is, I can’t imagine how annoying it is to have your boss erase your relationship like that over and over. Hope you’re somewhere you won’t get fired for pushing back!

  18. Enya*

    #2 : could it be that she’s an older woman who feels awkward or embarrassed calling her your girlfriend? My mom is the sweetest lady, is all for gay rights, but I can totally see her having a hard time saying “girlfriend” because she doesn’t actually know any gay people and these real life situations would be new for her and she would feel funny saying it. Not that this would totally excuse your boss, because she should call her your girlfriend, but there might not be anything malicious or homophobic behind it.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      It doesn’t matter though why she’s doing it. And if she’s embarrassed/awkward saying it, there’s still more than a hint of homophobia there.

      1. fposte*

        It might affect what correction will work the best, though. As people are noting, in some cases a clear instruction might be enough to change the pattern.

        1. BenAdminGeek*

          Agree- it doesn’t make it “ok” it just means the approach should be different. Granted, I think the boss is being an ass just to be an ass, but I’m not certain.

        2. Katie the Fed*

          I guess. But I’m not sure how it really changes the response. And in general I’m just getting weary of excuses for bad behavior.

          1. fposte*

            If I knew for sure what “refuses” meant here–if it meant the OP had corrected her and the boss still won’t do it–I might feel different. But until I know that, I wouldn’t approach the situation as one of wilful disregard.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I think it changes the approach, but not the response, if that makes sense. I’m more likely to gently and kindly correct someone who is messing up but is well-intentioned (i.e., a “virtuous” homophobe instead of a “virulent” one?) because I trust that their response to a gentle correction will be to be mortified and immediately try to correct their behavior. But I’m more likely to use sarcasm and quasi-public-shaming if I think the person is being an overt ass, in part because I don’t really have any reason to believe they’ll change their behavior. I guess one approach calls a person in, while the other calls them out.

            1. Natalie*

              Caveat that this is 100% influenced by my being a fairly direct communicator in an *extremely* indirect communication area. I always like to use one direct (but still polite) correction, even if I’m nearly 100% sure that the person is just an asshole. In the land of indirect communicators, I’m not a huge fan of the “Oh, I just didn’t understand!” excuse, so I prefer to remove it from their arsenal. Not that it ever stops anyone from making the same excuse, but it makes me feel better.

              Especially at work, and especially especially with one’s boss, it’s probably safest to go with the politer approach, as grating as that may be.

              1. fposte*

                Yes, it’s setting out a clear fork in the road for the other person. No more ambiguity–jackasses turn left, civilized people turn right. If you turn left in future, the problem wasn’t understanding.

          3. ephemia*

            Yes – completely agree. People purposely delegitimizing your relationship hurts in a very specific, real way, and I don’t think that has come up in the comments nearly as much as it should, compared to how many excuses people are making for the person in question. Just – believe that people do this on purpose, and that it is awful. Their alleged discomfort at using the proper term/taking same sex relationships seriously is not as bad as the pain of your relationship being routinely delegitimized.

    2. Dizzy Steinway*

      It’s still homophobia (or racism, or whichever prejudice) even if it can be explained by fear, or discomfort, or etc.

      Sometimes people want to believe that -isms and -phobias are a standalone thing that’s left only when you’ve eliminated all possible explanations. She’s not racist, she’s ‘just afraid.’ He’s not homophobic, he’s ‘just uncomfortable’.

      I think it’s really important to be clear that these are not mutually exclusive. Even if you’re uncomfortable because you don’t know any gay people and don’t understand how it all works rather than because you don’t approve, that does not mean you’re not being homophobic. You still are. Intent doesn’t negate effect.

      Everyone who is prejudiced is ‘just’ something. Afraid. Uncomfortable. Whatever. It doesn’t mean they’re not prejudiced.

      That seemed important to say.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Right. My grandma is old and says casual racist things. Being old isn’t an excuse, grandma.

        1. Oryx*

          I had a former co-worker throw the LGBT f-word slur around, justifying that it was because of her age when I called her out on it. She was in her early 40s. No, just no.

          1. Justme*

            My mom is in her late 60s and would never ever ever think of using that word. She’s also a lefty liberal (which makes a huge difference). But the whole “I’m old so I don’t know any better” argument is such BS.

            And Oryx, love the name and profile pic.

          2. SarahTheEntwife*

            0.o I’m pretty sure that was still offensive decades ago; that’s not like not realizing a term has become pejorative.

    3. Oryx*

      It’s still homophobic though. It’s not malicious homophobia, but just the fact that it makes someone “awkward” or “embarrassed” is still rooted in the perceived “otherness” of LGBTQIA+ relationships.

      This is one of those situations where Dumbledore comes into play and “fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.” The more a person confronts that fear or awkwardness or whatever and faces it by using the term that makes them uncomfortable, the easier and less awkward it becomes.

    4. ZVA*

      Yeah, if you’re “awkward” or “embarrassed” about/around gay people, you may not be malicious, but… you’re homophobic.

      1. Mabel*

        And if you’re not sure how to refer to your employee’s girlfriend, you could ASK. I understand the impulse to not ask, and I’m queer. In my case, it isn’t rational – it’s just my knee-jerk reaction (probably hoping to avoid the embarrassment of getting it wrong), but after about 5 seconds, I realize I’m being an ass and that I need to make sure I’ve gotten the person’s pronouns right (or whatever the thing is that I’m not sure about).

  19. Matt*

    #1: I wonder if OP’s boss realizes that a human body, even if one would be supposed to have no life out of work whatsoever, has to, you know, *sleep*.

    Does boss ever sleep, does she expect OP to synchronize her own sleep cycle with hers, or does she mistake her employees for robots with on/off switches and a standby mode?

    1. Sandy*

      I had a boss exactly like this until recently. In fact, reading the letter, I wondered if it WAS her, except we don’t work in education, and she would do the same thing, but at TWO IN THE MORNING. No amount of explaining that you were sleeping would convince her that you were not just shirking your work responsibilities and insubordinate.

      For the OP, documentation might help. You can (and should) try setting explicit boundaries (which it sounds like you have tried). In my experience, someone who consistently displays this kind of behaviour will not change even after discipline and coaching from on high, so you might need to put up with it or be prepared to leave.

  20. Channel Z*

    OP#2 Would you be OK with referring to her as “partner” instead of “girlfriend?” It may be she doesn’t like using “girlfriend” or “boyfriend.” I wonder if she refers to heterosexual couples living together as husband and wife, even if they are not married. I try to use partner as the default unless told otherwise–it covers all situations, and I have mistakenly in the past called someone’s partner “husband”, when in fact they weren’t married.

      1. Kj*

        To some of an older generation, girlfriend/boyfriend is for younger people. Older people have “lady-friends” and “gentleman callers” (Yes, this is real- I’m southern and in the small town my mom is from, my 80-year old great uncle has a “lady-friend” not a girlfriend. When someone called her a girlfriend, my older relatives were offended.) This a weird and depends on locale, but is a real thing!

        That said, this is unlikely to be the case AND it really doesn’t matter- if OP has clearly said “please call my girlfriend my girlfriend,” boss needs to oblige. Once OP is clear about this, boss needs to be held responsible for using preferred terms-if she slips, OP should correct her, but OP’s boss needs to be trying.

        1. Former Retail Manager*

          I am Southern and in my mid-30’s and I personally love these terms. I find them entertaining/endearing and I always think of older people just like your family members when I heard them. :) And I agree with the older generational Southern consensus that boyfriend/girlfriend sounds silly for anyone over about 40.

        2. Jamie*

          Slightly off topic but I always thought ‘lady friend’ and ‘gentleman caller’ were terms used to describe a person someone is seeing in a romantic capacity on a somewhat regular basis but who they’re not in a steady relationship with.

    1. Dizzy Steinway*

      But she’s using roommate, which is a non-romantic term, so I really don’t buy this line of thought.

      1. Leatherwings*

        Yeah and there’s a pretty steeped history of LGBTQ people calling their significant others “roommates” to avoid suspicion that they’re in a same-sex relationship. That term probably isn’t accidental.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          I was a teenager before it occurred to me to wonder why my aunt, an executive for one of the Big 3 Automakers, had a “roommate”

          Said “roommate” was treated like one of the family (spent the Holidays with us, invited to family weddings, etc) but was still referred to as a roommate until my bigoted grandfather died. And even then, one of my other aunts was aghast that they’d talk about it “in front of the children” (I was 19…)

          I don’t know what the boss’s motivation is either, but the term isn’t coincidental. The only way for the OP to find out, is to ask the boss.

    2. PK*

      I don’t think it’s a good idea to tell people how they should refer to their relationships. As a gay male, I’m not a fan of using partner personally. That may not be the case for the OP though.

    3. Channel Z*

      All true, the OPs wishes should be respected, and “roommate” definitely is not OK.

  21. Ruth (UK)*

    2. I don’t have any additional advice and I think Alison and the comments above are sufficient. I sort of posted to express joint frustration. I’m openly gay and I’m generally lucky in that I have rarely to almost never experienced any extreme homophobia directed at me personally (eg. Anything really hateful or being told I’m sinful or evil etc). However, I have got a fairly large amount of the type of thing your boss is doing, eg. Treating it as a bit weird, or a bit gross, or sort denying it’s a thing, (“it’s a phase” type responses etc). It happens enough or on a scale that sometimes makes it quite annoying.

    I like the idea some have said about saying partner instead of girlfriend – i think it sounds more professional and I think it also fits whether a person is married to their partner or not (so in my opinion is a more universal term). Personally in your situation I would want to remind your boss as I saw partner that it’s a girl, because of how she’s been acting. Therefore I might want to say eg. “my partner, Jane” when mentioning her, but that’s just me. (and wont work unless your girlfriend has a gender associated name)

    1. AnotherAnon*

      Yeah, personally I prefer “partner” over “girlfriend” in more formal contexts (and also while I’m figuring out whether or not to be out to *this* person). It sounds more professional and feels more serious and “long-term”, which we are. But yeah, it doesn’t really work for being open if your partner has a more ambiguous name (like mine does), unless you make a point to couple it with lots of pronouns. (Like, “my partner, Chris, said that she really enjoyed that new movie…”).

      1. AnotherAnon*

        Adding some info here that I’m in the UK, as I saw others mention that it’s not as normal for people in both opposite-sex and same-sex relationships to refer to their SOs as “partners”. So that might change how others view this?

  22. neverjaunty*

    OP #4, I also find the HR response a little weird and would be side-eyeing that. HR normally isn’t supposed to be buddy-buddy, and this seems both personal and “hey, go have some booze” which… I would not want HR to be saying this if I were the employer.

    Was the context of the rest of the conversation such that the topic and tone were appropriate?

    1. Anna*

      I don’t think HR was attempting to be buddy-buddy. I think they were attempting to inject some humanity and levity into a non-controversial subject. The OP may never hear from this particular HR person again.

  23. Katie the Fed*

    #2 – When people think they’re being subtle in their bigotry, I like to expose it. Have you thought of asking her (maybe in front of others too) when she does this “she’s actually my girlfriend. Why do you keep referring to her as my roommate?” and wait for her to come up with an answer. Because she’s then confronted with 1) lying or 2) admitting she’s a bigot.

  24. Sled dog mama*

    #5-I do this because I had a string of fairly short positions but I don’t include it for longer term positions. I would think that the person didn’t think about how it would look to list a reason for leaving for some positions and not others.
    Based on your examples I wonder if the applicant could be trying to denote positions that she did not leave voluntarily and the ones with no reason are those that the applicant chose to move on from.

    1. #5 OP*

      Ooh – good point! I do think I agree with Alison that it’s a tough practice to apply to an entire resume, unless someone is planning to include “I left because my boss was a jerk/I was offered more pay/whatever.” But I agree that it can make sense for short-term positions.

  25. Katie the Fed*

    #1 – is this something that you and your coworkers might be able to bring to a higher boss? I mean, this is just insane. I work in a pretty intense environment where there are actual, real world crises (not imagined ones) and it’s generally expected that on the rare occasion I get called at home, I get back to the caller within an hour. But it’s rare.

    What she’s doing is just nuts, as you know. Assuming your coworkers feel the same way, there’s probably not much risk in bringing it up to a higher boss if she’s understanding. You could even let big boss know that this is being done in HQ’s name – “Is HQ’s intent really that we’re supposed to respond to all queries within 10 minutes at any hour of the night?”

    Consider also that HQ is asking HER for the information. There are some things they might be expecting her to answer, not pass off on you. If/when I get called at an odd hour, I’m going to move heaven and earth to deal with it myself before waking up one of my employees.

  26. always in email jail*

    #1. I’ve lived that, and it’s ridiculous. Something that got traction with my old boss was using the phrase “there’s no such thing as an emergency text.” I told them they needed to call me if they needed an immediate response. For some reason, people are a lot more hesitant to make a phone call than they are to send a text. That might backfire on you, but if you think your boss would be more hesitant to call it’s worth a try. Also, leave that job.

    #2 your boss is a jerk

    #3 I think you’re having a bit of a poor attitude, here. Unless you have reason to, don’t assume the worst. Maybe your boss was really going to bat for you and fighting hard to get you a raise, tried a few different approaches, and none worked. I’d be more frustrated if I got too quick of an answer when I asked vs having to wait.

    #4 Your HR person was just being a human, don’t read too deep into it.

    #5 I’ve never seen that, but our application system actually requires people to put “reason left” for each job they entered. I think it’s a bit silly, but it does provide a window into their judgement sometimes… (for example, if they write a long paragraph about how they didn’t get along with their boss and how toxic their environment was etc., they seem to have poor judgement. Just say “found new opportunity”!)

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Re: #1, I agree. I use the same phrase when people refer to “emergency emails.” I’m often in the field (like the literal fields) with limited email access. If there’s an honest-to-God emergency, then call me. I’ve found the number of “emergency” requests declines exponentially when someone has to pick up a phone to convey the request.

    2. #5 OP*

      True! And by including those reasons on long-term positions, it does give the sense that the applicant is someone who will stay until external factors intervene, rather than looking for new opportunities. Which could be good or bad, depending on what a manager is looking for.

      I’m glad we don’t request reasons for leaving. That seems like a potential minefield – or an early test of applicants diplomacy.

  27. Delta Delta*

    #1 – Oh geez. I worked for a boss like this once, who didn’t seem to understand why not everyone was responding to his emails (never texts – that wasn’t his style) on weekends and in the middle of the night. His attitude was, “I’m working so the rest of you should be, too.” It strikes me that people who do things like this are going to be likely to not understand that people have lives outside of work and also that while at work people have different working styles. Seems like the thing to do is to get out of this job. The work may be great, but if it’s harder to do the work than the work itself it isn’t worth it.

    #4 – I don’t see anything wrong with the suggestion. Maybe if the HR manager had said, “you’ll love the hotel, it’s got a nice view of a waterfall and the lobby bar has great appetizers” it would have come across differently. But the way it was presented, it seemed to me like the HR manager was trying to be friendly. I’ve noticed in communication with some people that LOL gets used to soften a conversation to a friendly level. Like, if you were in person, it would be sort of a breezy conversation.

    1. BenAdminGeek*

      That’s how I took it as well on #4. The intent was to try and breezily recommend a bar, and the LOL is to soften it in case you don’t drink or weren’t interested. It’s a small shield put up to try and make the conversation lighter (ok, that’s a terrible mishmash sentence).

      1. Allison*

        Right, to me things like “lol,” “haha,” and smiley faces are sort of the text equivalent of chuckling to lighten a conversation. It can sound genuine or forced, depending on the context. I’d rather people not bother, but hey, it’s better than people who stick ellipses at the end of every sentence to soften their tone ……

  28. SCtoDC*

    I realize #4 isn’t the most pressing question in this roundup, but I am oddly fascinated by the OP’s response. Maybe it just depends on the culture of your office, but someone at work recommending a bar is completely normal. My office has regular happy hours (at an offsite location and everyone pays for themselves) and ordering alcohol while on work trips (and charging it back to the organization) is totally normal. For context, I’m a researcher at a nonprofit in a large city.

    1. Hanna*

      I wonder if OP #4 is from a culture or a religion that prohibits alcohol consumption? If so, I could see how this could seem inappropriate to her (even though it’s not), especially if she’s new to working in the U.S.

      That’s just a guess on my part, though.

      1. Gadfly*

        Well, being from UT, I can picture a lot of people who would have had a response of “Can HR even say THAT?!”

        But UT is a place where restaurants have to hide all drink mixing (Zion Curtains) and at times there have been serious attempts to require drinking/non drinking sections or hiding tables with drinks…

    2. Koko*

      It also seems from reading the comments that some people expect HR to be more like emotionless robots than their other coworkers? I’m also at a big/corporate nonprofit and I consider my HR coworkers like any others. They are generally well-liked, they attend social events, they make jokes, they share stories. We are all held to the same behavioral conduct standard, which is: Treat everyone at work with respect. Nothing more for the HR staff, nothing less for the rest of us.

    3. MK*

      I think context matters. In my country hotel bars are usually too expensive and boring; if you want a night out or even a drink in cheerful surroundings, you search for a nice neighbourhood place nearby. So a message like that would be just a heads up that you don’t need to go searching for a good drink. But if the boss just sent a company-wide email warning about drinking while traveling on the job, it could be seen as totally inappropriate.

    4. Emi.*

      I do think that adding “LOL” makes it seem like they’re recommending something wild or sketchy. In person, I wouldn’t find it weird if they said “By the way, the hotel bar is pretty good,” but if they followed up with a big wink, that would be weird.

      1. Koko*

        This is getting pretty interpretive but in my experience people who use “LOL” instead of “lol” (case) are older people who tend to treat LOL like a heavily-used form of punctuation.

    5. ClaireUK*

      I wonder if OP#4 is the HR person and someone has found their email objectionable? Mind you I accept Alison may have cut down a longer letter that makes it obvious they were the recipient.

      Regarding the LOL I listened to a great TED Radio Hour with John McWhorter that discussed how LOL has morphed from simply standing for “laugh out loud” to an expression of empathy.

    6. Me123*

      Yeah, I’m also wondering if the OP is either from a very different culture or is just very odd. Even in my current, very conservative job, a remark like that would be totally normal. It would never in a million years occur to me to write AAM about this.

      1. fposte*

        “Very odd” seems extreme to me. I would have been startled by this when I first entered the working world, and I don’t think it’s surprising that somebody else is.

    7. CheeryO*

      Maybe they work for the government? When I was new to my state agency, I got very uncomfortable when people put anything even remotely unprofessional or unrelated to work in their emails to me. I’ve lightened up a bit (since I realized that no one is interested in 99% of my emails) but I’m still a little bit over-cautious.

      1. CheeryO*

        Nevermind, I see that they referred to it as a company, so that’s probably not the case.

  29. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    #2 – Before I get into substantive commenting, I just want to say how happy it makes me to see this letter and the advice related to it. I remember being in my first job and referring to my fiancée as “Chris” and carefully avoiding any singular pronouns or slurring them when I used them to both ease my own conscience about lying and at the same time stay carefully closeted. I don’t think I ever really thought at that time that we would get to a place — certainly not so quickly! — where it’d be perfectly fine to say “Hey, everyone knows, and your boss is being the weird one here by not acknowledging it.” It’s certainly not like this everywhere, but in just 15-ish years? Gives me hope.

    1. Minerva McGonagall*

      Yeah. The first decade out of school I referred to my “roommate” most of the time. When I was looking for my current job, I decided I wanted to work somewhere it wasn’t going to be an issue. I went through a recruiter for temp jobs, so I could leave quickly if the environment was not friendly. Current company I was out from day 1. (I didn’t make an announcement, just waited until someone asked what I’d done the prior weekend, and took the opportunity to say, “my wife and I …”) It hasn’t been perfect, there are assholes in every group, but I rarely finding myself pausing in a conversation to decide whether to use the correct pronoun. It’s so much less stress. I wish everyone could live like this.

  30. AnotherAnon*

    I really don’t mean to pile on here as I think you intended this as a joke, but as a general rule of thumb when talking about LGBT+ issues in the workplace: would you consider it appropriate if a man did this to a woman? If not, it’s not appropriate for any other combination of gender. Another rule of thumb is to avoid jokes about sexual harassment/assault.

  31. JustMeAndMeToo*

    #4 reminded me that I once had an HR rep point out that when I was traveling to Reno for work there was a famous brothel nearby. I asked her if that was an approved business expense…

  32. Tertia*

    OP #1, I agree that your boss is deranged. That being said, if you can’t use your phone during school hours (’cause breaks aren’t for working), would it be reasonable to establish that you will check your messages and respond to urgent ones between 8:30 and 9:00 and between 4:00 and 4:30, or suchlike?

  33. AthenaC*

    #2 – I would go in this order:

    1) Is Susan’s read on the situation (comment above) accurate? If so, just tell your boss your comfortable being out and it’s fine to refer to your girlfriend as your girlfriend. Aside from a few relapses out of habit, that should fix it.

    2) If Susan’s read is not correct, skip to Alison’s scripts. This should be firmer language than what you would use for #1.

    3) If that doesn’t fix it, and you’re not being otherwise discriminated against, I would put this in the category of “You can’t control other people.” Your peers at work all know you’re a lesbian, and they’re presumably supportive, right? If so, I would allow the dynamic with your peers to dominate your perception of your work culture, assuming you want to stay at this job.

    1. Agnodike*

      Another perspective might be that advocating for the recognition of your individual humanity, including socially-important personal relationships, in the workplace, is a valuable thing to do, and pushing back against the erasure of your identity by someone in a position of power over you is a legitimate way to do so. You can’t control other people, but you can make it clear what you expect from them, and equal treatment and basic respect are reasonable expectations.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Unfortunately, if the LW is in a state without protections for LGBT individuals, advocating too strongly for herself could lead to termination. Which is unfair, yes, but it’s something that we have to consider when choosing whether or not to be out at work. I’m in a state without protections for private sector employees, but I knew it was safe for me to be out to my boss because of her personal views.

        1. Agnodike*

          I think there’s a difference between acknowledging that your government doesn’t protect you and you may have to give up your rights in order to protect yourself, and saying “if you’re not otherwise being discriminated against, just accept this as a personal quirk your boss has.” I think those two statements accomplish different things, and I think they come from very different perspectives on what it means to be a person from a marginalized group. I agree with you 100% that sometimes we have to say the former, but I read AthenaC’s comment as the latter.

      2. AthenaC*

        That is, indeed, another perspective.

        If it helps, the backdrop of my thought process is this –

        – I don’t naturally fit in at any workplace, so I do some pretty extreme code-switching anyway.
        – In particular, I’ve gotten really good at navigating the political realities of places run by conservative old men.
        – My mother persists in erasing my relationship with my husband. When she refers to my family, she is explicitly referring to ONLY me and my children. I have actually said to her multiple times, “My husband IS part of my family. That is literally how marriage works.” I can’t fire my mom, so I just shrug it off and focus on other things.

    2. LBK*

      “Not otherwise being discriminated against” isn’t really a metric you can measure so objectively, though. I mean, the boss isn’t likely to come right out and say “I don’t give promotions to lesbians,” but the subconscious bias that drives her word choice could be driving her decision-making in other, more subtle ways. It’s one of the reason people put such an emphasis on word choice, because it’s often the only concrete indicator you get of how someone thinks.

      1. AthenaC*

        That’s true – but in general, the right path for the OP does depend on her subjective read of the environment. As with a lot of situations in life.

        1. LBK*

          I’m not sure I really understand what you mean here or how it relates to the advice you’ve given above, can you expand on this?

          1. AthenaC*

            My thought is that when it comes to questions of discrimination, there’s not much left that people will do in terms of overt, explicit discrimination. You do have to read between the lines and look at the totality of the situation.

            The OP didn’t give us a ton of information, so we don’t know whether this is one weird quirk of her boss or whether the boss is actually discriminatory. We also don’t know whether “refused” means that OP has asked and boss has said “no,” or whether (as Susan said) the boss has this habit to try to be discreet and avoid drawing attention to the OP.

            FWIW, there’s a not-uncommon conservative thought process out there that doesn’t want to encourage / acknowledge / draw attention to gay relationships at the risk of causing disrespect to the gay person; there are environments where that’s actually not a misguided thought. It doesn’t sound like OP’s office is one of those environments, though.

            If the OP thinks the overall environment is discriminatory, then they should probably start job-searching. Of course, she is welcome to job-search at any time, anyway, but her read of the situation may make job-searching more or less urgent.

            1. LBK*

              Thanks for clarifying, I seriously appreciate you taking the time to follow up. I think this is the part that still has me furrowing my brow:

              The OP didn’t give us a ton of information, so we don’t know whether this is one weird quirk of her boss or whether the boss is actually discriminatory.

              What I was trying to say is that in my experience, people rarely just have a linguistic quirk that happens to be a dogwhistle and no other biases related to that at all. Were I in the OP’s shoes, I’d be concerned that her boss’s decision-making had been influenced by subconscious bias in other ways, and it would shake my confidence in whether I were being evaluated objectively.

              Even benevolent homophobia, such as it is, can still be damaging to the OP’s career; for instance, if the company takes on a big new client who’s known for having more conservative views, is the OP’s boss going to keep the OP off that account to try to protect her from potentially having to deal with someone who’s anti-LGBT?

              1. AthenaC*

                In my experience, language is complicated enough that a linguistic quirk could be a symptom of bigotry, benign intent that tripped into the wrong words, or any number of other reasons. Very rarely, if ever, have I found it useful or helpful to assume that we know anything deeper about a person from a turn of phrase. Not saying you’re wrong; just that we’ve seen different things.

                For example, take the discussion upthread about what the word “partner” is assumed (or not assumed) to mean in different regions. Words mean things, but they mean different things to different people in different areas in different contexts. With very few exceptions (the n-word comes to mind, for instance), I try to avoid assuming too much.

                Also, there are people who are very up-to-date on all the right words to say / avoid who are still plenty bigoted.

                I agree with (and am very interested in) creating a world where bias doesn’t exist, both conscious and unconscious. To that end, I also agree with (and am very interested in) understanding the history of words and working to create a more inclusive and respectful language, but I don’t think we get there by the level of language-policing that I’ve seen a lot of places.

                1. AthenaC*

                  In any case, my advice for the OP could change significantly with more info. Hence all the caveats and qualifiers in my initial post.

              2. Hershele Ostropoler*

                in my experience, people rarely just have a linguistic quirk that happens to be a dogwhistle and no other biases related to that at all.

                To me that’s an essential element of dog-whistleness. If there’s no possible innocent interpretation, it’s not a dog-whistle, it’s just a slur.

  34. Lablizard*

    OP 1, That is so aggravating. I have a friend who works in a diagnostic virology lab with reporting requirements for highly contagious communicable diseases. The have 24 hours to report a positive case of the most serious diseases (e.g. Ebola, measles, MERS-CoV, etc). If Ebola can wait 24 hours, I guarantee anything your headquarters requests can wait until the next business day.

    Do her requests fall into certain categories where you could set up a guide for her to find things without you all? Or some kind of FAQ you and your co-workers can put together? If you can create something like that and give some reasonable time frames for responses (e.g. if it is a call before 6 an you will respond by 8, if it is after 8 pm it will be next day by 7 am), she might be more willing to hear you put because you are offering solutions (but I am not holding my breath because she sounds unreasonable)

    1. Lora*

      Yeah, this. I can be summoned on a moment’s notice for the following issues:

      -Someone is actually dead or badly injured enough to go to the hospital
      -There is a crater in the ground where my place of employment used to be, or there is about to be
      -Regulatory Agency wants something NOW; however, even Regulatory Agency only works 8-5, pretty strictly.
      -Accidental release of genetically modified organisms or select agents
      -Major power outage that affected even the backup UPS (because that could lead to any or all of the above rather quickly)

      That’s pretty much it.

      The pain in the rear is when email chains start flying and evolve to a point where if you had stepped in at the beginning and said, “no, we cannot do X, it is not feasible because Y” there would not be a load of crazy waiting for you in the morning where all of a sudden 10 people are demanding that you break the laws of physics and don’t understand whyyyyyy you can’t do that because they have made a consensus that you should totally have a TARDIS. Then you have to be the bad guy who makes them feel bad about themselves for getting all worked up without a reality check, whereas if you’d put a stop to the nonsense before it gained momentum you wouldn’t have these problems. And training people out of those bad habits is not at all easy, because usually they’ve learned the habit of sending War And Peace length emails at 2am to half the company from a job where they had to CYA all the time because people had no integrity. Once someone’s trust is broken it’s hard for them to trust again and all that.

      TL;DR. Jerks are everywhere.

      1. Emi.*

        If there’s a crater in the ground where your place of employment needs to be, I would demand immediate responses from the Crater Response Squad, but not from anyone else.

        1. Lora*

          I am part of the Crater Response Squad – I have to tell the nice firefighters/police what was in the ex-building so they can figure out if it is safe for them to dig through the rubble or not. Also if it’s not safe, I am the person who knows how to handle the biological hazard cleanup, hooray!

              1. Lora*

                I will tell you the same thing I tell the entry level employees when they start: all the things that sound great and look fantastic on your resume, involved a LOT of super tedious boring awful work in uncomfortable conditions for long hours.

                This is in fact the goal; you don’t WANT your job to be spine-tingling brushes with death on a daily basis. You really, really don’t. Trust me on this one. The stress will wreck your health.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  Oh, of course–I’m interested in how you prepare for these kinds of things, as well as how they’re handled.
                  I worked in environmental remediation for a while (not as a tech; in the office). Cleaning up mold, tanker spills, and crime scenes is not a glamorous job, but it’s an important one.

              1. Lora*

                Crater Response is only a small part of my job, thankfully. 99% of my time is spent on…well actually on fiddling around with pumps and piping and programming logic, compiling data, sitting in meetings and managing junior engineers. I do process development for biopharma, mostly on vaccines but I’ve done other biologics too.

                But yes, a significant part of my job is FMEA, and it has involved some odd and unexpected things. The most “sounds cool but in real life was annoying” was decontaminating a Mars rover, the weirdest was wild pig control for a biofuel company.

            1. Lora*

              It very much depends on why it is an ex-building. For some stuff you basically put up a bunch of sensors and wait a few weeks for the stuff to dissipate, for some you have to basically sparge the soil to evaporate out the solvent fumes before anyone can go near, for some you can reasonably construct some kind of containment. For most things I work with we can set up containment and use disinfectant vapor to kill any biological stuff. The most common holes in the ground I’ve dealt with involved compressed steam or air and once the pressure is released it’s all over.

              1. Lablizard*

                With my work you sadly the ground and hope no zombies happen.

                Not really (I hope) but lab A and lab B are separated for a reason. No one wants any unsupervised recombining

      2. Hershele Ostropoler*

        I don’t know about “actually dead.” It’s not like their condition is going to change in the next few hours.

        (Technically it will, but they’re not likely to notice.)

    2. MadGrad*

      “If Ebola can wait 24 hrs, so can anything at your job” might be my new favourite phrase!

    3. Justme*

      “If Ebola can wait 24 hours, I guarantee anything your headquarters requests can wait until the next business day.”

      I am so stealing this as my personal mantra when things get overwhelming. Thank you!

  35. Dizzy Steinway*

    #5 I put reasons like these – e.g. the company dissolved – for a couple of positions where I think the details might not seem to add up otherwise. One where that division has completely closed so the position I had seems implausible now and I don’t want people to think I made it up. And one where the office/branch I worked at no longer exists. It’s there as a way of saying: here’s some extra context that may be helpful in checking me out. I only put it on those two as it’s not needed for the rest. It would look weird if it wasn’t a minority of my roles, granted, but given the examples in your letter it sounds like it may be for similar reasons.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      Yeah- the note explains why you can’t give them a number to call and confirm your employment. I’ve had that.

    2. #5 OP*

      Interesting! I hadn’t thought of that (I wasn’t in charge of reference checks for this one), but that does make sense.

    3. writelhd*

      Do you feel like it’s worked for you? My fear would be calling attention to it even more. And how do you do it? As a line underneath the main line, as one of the bullet points?

      1. Dizzy Steinway*

        It doesn’t seem to have caused any problems. I keep it really simple and I don’t actually label it as ‘reason for leaving’ or anything like that – I just add it in brackets in a place where it makes logical sense.

        So for the one where that office has closed, I put a current contact address and add a note in brackets after that about where I was based. It makes sense for that field – former location is more impressive than the current address – but maybe not in others.

        For the division that’s closed I just add a quick note after the job title. In this case it’s because it’s hard to find accurate information online – and actually Wikipedia has it right, listing the correct closure date for this section, while industry websites imply it’s still current, list inaccurate contact info, etc. So I’d rather just be super clear.

  36. Jessesgirl72*

    Op3: Two months isn’t even the longest I’ve had to wait to be turned down for a raise. There is sometimes a very long and involved process, as Alison described, that has to be done first.

    If your manager had given you an immediate or almost immediate no, in fact, that would have meant that your manager hadn’t even made an effort and you weren’t valued. That it took two months shows your worth to your manager, even if he couldn’t get you the raise.

  37. Jan Levinson*

    #4 – I’m actually intrigued by this one even though it’s a pretty straightforward question and answer.

    I would never categorize HR’s email as “not okay.” In fact, I think it’s nice seeing employees actually behaving like people, and not like robots. I used to work at a place where everyone was so robotic, and this would have perhaps been frowned upon, but I actually find it refreshing! It’s important for employees to be recognized as actual people who do things in life besides just go to work.

    1. Malibu Stacey*

      Agreed. I feel like there’s definitely some context the LW didn’t include here because I wouldn’t think anything of getting an email like that from HR. Does the LW already find the HR person kind of annoying? Is the LW 2 months sober and it’s common knowledge at her workplace? Did the LW’s significant other get this email and s/he’s afraid the HR person might be hitting on him/her?

  38. Adulting*

    For #2, just wanted to add that even if you live in a state that doesn’t have state employment protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the EEOC recently has started interpreting “sex discrimination” as including sexual orientation and gender identity, so in theory LGBT employees in all states have some employment rights on the federal level (you can read their page about it here: While federal legislation like the Equality Act would make protections much clearer about LGBT employment discrimination, it’s important to know that LGBT employees do have some rights under prevailing understandings of Title VII – though it’s likely they won’t be as well-enforced in our current administration. (note here that I’m not a lawyer and can’t give legal advice)

  39. A Nonny Mouse*

    OP 1, I had a boss like that once upon a time. And she would do it with regard to her own personal matters (she once texted and then called me at 3am because her heat was broken and she needed me to call the repair people IMMEDIATELY).

    Unfortunately, I learned that the only ways you can handle it are (a) the way Alison said, or (b) by quitting. I will say that if she’s like my former boss, it’s unlikely she’s going to change because she won’t see what she’s doing IS unreasonable. For what it’s worth, you’re not wrong here. I couldn’t even finish a shower in 7 minutes, much less handle and respond to a text, and even if I could, the expectation that I SHOULD isn’t reasonable on its face. Good luck to you.

    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      “texted and then called me at 3am because her heat was broken and she needed me to call the repair people IMMEDIATELY).”

      Wait, she called you instead of calling them directly? Aw HELL no. That gets you hung up on.

  40. RVA Cat*

    OP#1 – Your boss is a jerk and won’t change.

    I am worried about someone this unhinged working in education. You say she yells at you and your co-workers “a lot”. Does this happen in front of the children? Does she interact directly with the kids? I’m wondering how long until she loses her temper with them, too, especially in the extinction burst after the staff pushes back.

  41. Technology is Good*

    #1 I have a phone app called OFFTIME. Lately I’ve set it up to auto reply via text if I am driving, sleeping, or doing a tricky work task that I can’t interrupt to answer the phone. All the notifications on my phone are turned off while OFFTIME is running, so the phone isn’t distracting or annoying me by beeping or blinking or vibrating. Also you can set it to allow important contacts to get through(like my spouse for example). I know it isn’t a great solution to the problem of your annoying boss but it might mitigate or set up a buffer (it might also make her madder). Just a thought. I hope you find a solution.

  42. Karen K*

    OP #3: Something to consider – If you have taken on a lot of new responsibilities this year, maybe it’s time to upgrade your position, especially if you are near the top of the pay range based on your current job description. If your workplace is anything like mine, there’s no way to get more than the published range for a particular position. In order to get more money, I asked to have my job reviewed, and it resulted in a higher position and corresponding higher salary range.

  43. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    I appreciate the second letter and think the response is good. I also feel so glad to be the age I am, where I didn’t have to “wait” for marriage equality and have always had workplace protections.

    That said, I wasn’t out in my first job. I had had to move back in with my parents in between college and law school (about 9 months since I finished college a semester early). It was 2012, in a conservative Minnesota town. The marriage amendment was the big thing that year, and about 2/3rds of the county voted against it (so, for a ban on same sex marriage). I knew that was the kind of environment I would be in, plus, my mother was friends with my boss. And at the time, mom didn’t want me to be out outside the family (that spring, I went on a law school visit- she insisted on coming along for the tour or I wouldn’t be able to go since she wouldn’t lend me the car if I refused- and she stood on my foot when I started to ask about LGBT student programs). She maintained that she could still punish me as long as I lived at home as well, so I had to be careful.

    Looking back though, I do wish I had been out at that point. It would have changed some votes, I would hope.

  44. Rachael*

    OP #4: It is a little hard for me to relate because LastJob and CurrentJob a culture in which they communicate informally. While I would not be putting LOL on correspondence to SVPs it is common, even expected, to be friendly and informal with everyone else. Happy faces, frowny faces, LOL…is common here and adds context to emails. I guess, in the Pacific Northwest, we are known for “being offended” and this probably extends to people making sure that email communication doesn’t seem brisk or rude to others. As for the bar part of the email it is just a way for her to relate to you and build friendly relationships with her coworkers. I understand that recommending a bar may not hit home with a group of people but I would see it more as her reaching out and trying to be warm and friendly.

  45. JC Denton*

    OP #1, run far, run fast. I’ve had a boss just like that. It started out with the aggressive texts and quickly escalated to verbal confrontations in front of coworkers. Everyone knew the boss was “unhinged,” so no one’s opinion ever fell because the boss accused them of something like that. Still, you cannot imagine the embarrassment when you’d become the target of one of their tirades. No one was immune and I think they liked it that way. They’d even lash out at superiors who would just dismiss it as, “that’s just the way they are.” They’d text their hostile rants on nights, weekends, and even vacation. The worst was when I was *in the hospital* and they had the nerve to start a text rant.

    I transferred off the team, but not before being blocked left and right by the vindictive boss. The typical “betrayal” mantra of the bad boss, except screamed throughout the cubes for all to hear. To get screamed at by them and congratulated by others the same day is a funny feeling. About six months later, I heard they made the mistake of yelling at someone several levels above and were quickly removed from their supervisory post. Too little, too late for a lot of my former colleagues, but at least it got done.

  46. This made my day*

    #4 “They’re not advocating you get trashed and pass out in the hotel hallway”

  47. Stephanie (HR Manager)*

    #3 – as an HR professional who has worked in a state where there was no state law against discrimination for LGBTQ, we still acted as though there was, and that’s because these things can also often be a gender issue. Taking your situation, if there is a male with a girlfriend, and she refers to his as a girlfriend, and she refers to your girlfriend as a roommate, then the only difference is the gender of the employee. And gender is protected federally.

  48. 2 Cents*

    OP#3 Please don’t be demoralized! You asked! That’s a HUGE step! In my first job, I was told I would be getting a raise, but it would have to be confirmed. The confirmation of said raise took 6 weeks. It took another 6 weeks for it to show up in my paycheck (retroactively, but still). Business decisions like this can move soooo sloooow. Be proud of yourself for realizing your worth and your contributions and asking for compensation!

  49. Noah*

    How often is Boss talking about OP2’s girlfriend? That this is happening enough to be a significant issue is, in and of itself, weird.

    1. Brogrammer*

      Just the other day, my boss asked how my girlfriend was liking her new job. Bosses and coworkers are also humans.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, we’re pretty au fait with one another’s lives at my workplace. In fact, I was realizing the reason that I almost never remember using “girlfriend” or “boyfriend” is because I usually know their names and refer to them that way.

        1. Brogrammer*

          That’s definitely something you see once everyone knows each other better. My grandboss asks about her by name, but my direct boss is pretty new, I don’t expect him to remember her name yet.

    2. Ultraviolet*

      Also, this is such a disrespectful thing to do that it could easily stand out and feel significant to OP2 after happening only once or twice.

  50. Lauren K Milligan*

    Chiming in really, really late but I wanted to add a reason that it might have taken so long for the raise. Alison mentioned that it might have to go through 5 people. With one of my previous roles, raises were decided by a committee…who only met once a month! It was less than ideal. If I wanted to give a raise to one of my employees, I would bring it up at the next meeting and then the following meeting, everyone would give their opinions and vote. That gave time (as Alison also mentioned) for budgets to revisited, and all the logistics that came with it. So whether the raise was approved or denied, the minimum it took was 2 months. That company just about committee’d themselves to death.

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